How to Live 100 Years, According to the World’s Oldest People

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The world’s oldest living person right now is Kane Tanaka, a 116-year-old woman who lives in Japan. She has held the title since July of last year when 117-year-old Chiyo Mikayo passed away.

World’s oldest person, Kane Tanaka, then and now [credit: Guinness World Records]

What’s the secret to such a long life? Well, Kane attributes her longevity to family, sleep, hope, and faith in God. Many other centenarians have been asked the same question, though, and given very different answers. Here’s some advice from the world’s oldest people about how to live a long, healthy life… though you may want to take some of it with a grain of salt.

Eat Well… Whatever That Means to You

Doctors have been telling us for decades that what we eat will affect our overall lifespan, so it may come as no surprise that some centenarians attribute their longevity to their diet. Alida Victoria Grubba Rudge — who lived to be 113 — recommended eating healthy, and Alimihan Seyiti, who claims to have been born in 1886, says she drinks lots of cold water and sticks to a mostly vegetarian diet.

But many of the world’s oldest people have some unexpected dietary advice. Pearl Cantrell attributed her 116 years to eating bacon every day; Elizabeth Sullivan, who lived to be 106, to drinking 3 Dr. Peppers a day; Agnes Fenton, who died at 112 years of age, to a daily dose of Miller High Life and Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Emiliano Mercado del Toro became the world’s oldest man in 2004 and kept the title for 3 years until his death at age 115, and he claimed that it was funche, a Puerto Rican dish made from cornmeal and codfish, that kept him alive so long.

Stay Single… or Not

Some centenarians, such Susannah Mushatt Jones (U.S., aged 116), Leandra Becerra Lumbreras (Mexico, aged 127), and Emma Morano (Italy, aged 117), claimed that staying single was a major factor in their longevity. Clara Meadmore, who lived to 108, claimed to be “too busy” for intimate relationships.

By contrast, Emiliano Mercado del Toro — mentioned above — partially attributes his long life to a love of women. Mbah Ghoto, who died at the astonishing age of 146, told NPR that he had a long life “because I have people that love me looking after me.”

Is it more than coincidence that there seems to be a gender divide on this issue? Perhaps: studies have shown that men live longer when they are married, while married women have the same life expectancy as unmarried women. Women who have strong female friendships, however, tend to live longer than those without.

Work Hard, Rest Hard

Jessie Gallan, who died at 109, started working as a milkmaid at age 13. She believed her lifelong work ethic contributed to her old age.

Jessie Gallan [credit: zeptha.com]

On the other hand, Leandra Becerra Lumbreras, mentioned above, also attributed her long life to a habit of sleeping for days on end. Kamato Hongo, who died at 116, would sleep so much her family sometimes fed her while she slept. Mary Francis Carruba, who turned 100 in 2015, says the secret to living longer is to “be lazy.”

Stick to Your Vices?

Several centenarians claim that it was smoking and alcohol that kept them healthy. Jeanne Calment, who lived 122 years, drank port wine, ate nearly a kilogram of chocolate each week, and smoked cigarettes from age 21 to 117. Batuli Lamichhane, who turned 116 last year, smokes a pack and a half every day and claims they helped her stay alive. Dorothy Parke said that her doctor claims that it was drinking that helped her reach her 100th birthday.

What do you think? Would you follow this advice? How long was the longest lifespan among your own relatives? Tell us in the comments!

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  • gus marsh


    June 30, 2019

    I go to the gym twice a week for about 2 hours each time.