100 Years and Beyond: The Centenarian Lifestyle

Last updated on 29 October 2023

Read time: 7 minute

Enjoy life and die soon? or keep enjoying life that you forget about death?
Experts are busy cracking the genetic code for longevity, Meanwhile let’s ponder upon the lives of those who have, in a way, cheated death for a long time, the centenarians.

In this post we touch upon some observations on centenarian lifestyle and learn what experts have found. We look into their eccentricity, the food they ate. Lets also learn the impact of the environment on their longevity.

Longevity studies exploring centenarian Lifestyle

Experts have been conducting studies on centenarians to better understand the factors that contribute to their longevity.

Some examples of studies related to centenarians:

The New England Centenarian Study & The Longevity Genes Project.
These studies focus on the genetic and environmental factors.

The 90+ Study, The Okinawa Centenarian Study & The Danish 1905 Cohort Study.
These studies focus on lifestyle factors like diet, physical  health and social life.

Whether its data from scientific observation and explanations or the way they lived,
there is so much to learn from centenarians.

Centenarian Lifestyle Observations from Longevity Studies

One important factor is, centenarians stay active and engaged in life. 

  • A Sense of Purpose to continue to learn and grow throughout their lives. Their belief of the job they did was part of a bigger purpose in life.
  • Social Connections with family and their communities. They spend a lot of time with family, friends and community and looking after each other.
  • Physical Activity kept them busy with routines like walking, gardening, household chores although they did not involve in any regular exercises.
  • Plant-Based Diet ensured they had the best nourishment to stay healthy. A key reason for their longevity. Occasionally they ate fish or little meat.
  • Stress management was built into their daily routine along with their positive attitude towards life. And they did sleep well. They found joy in their physical activities.
  • Faith and spirituality was an intricate part of their daily life. Meditation, prayer and their connection to nature provided them with a sense of well-being. Their belief in a higher power provided them with strength, resilience and peace during hard times.

    And I am sure they never advertised or counted their deeds except their blessings.

Statistical Observation from Longevity studies

  • Centenarians have a unique population of viruses in their guts that produce short-chain fatty acids, which have beneficial effects on health. The researchers say that the gut virome may play a role in longevity.

    That’s evolution right? You live so long and things living inside you learn and evolve.
    It’s win-win or should I say live-live?
  • People who are overweight in their 70s are more likely to live longer than people who are normal or underweight.

    OK, I guess, that may not apply to people eating processed food so take it with a pinch of low sodium salt.
  • Among centenarians, 85% are women and 15% are men, according to the New England Centenarian Study based at Boston University. 

    In a social context (friends, families) women talk more and work more. If it’s any indication for longevity, I suggest men talk more and do more chores.
  • “I was drinking milk and eating well because I worked on a farm. And I often go back and think they gave me a good start in life and for my bones in my body,” Dransfield says. Read more in this WordPress blog.

    Pure milk. My grandpa demanded the milk man to get his cow everyday and milk it fresh, I used to bring a tiny cup of oil for the milk man, so he could lubricate the cows teat. He filled a small pot with milk while I watched. It used to be fun.
  • A recent Ohio State University study did find that people who were religious typically lived four years longer than those who weren’t. 

    that’s Prayer, Belief and Faith. Today it’s replaced with words like Positive mindset, affirmation, mindfulness and all the “self”-words.
  • 90% of all of the centenarians were still independently functioning at the average age of 93 years. Somehow, despite the presence of diseases, people who become centenarians don’t die from those diseases, but rather they are able to deal with them much better than other people and remain independently functioning more than 30 years beyond the age of 60.

    Their determination is impeccable. Something we all might have witnessed, they just want to do it even if its quirky?

Centenarians and their eccentricities

Centenarians are no exception when it comes to eccentricities. Although they enjoy an overall healthy and progressive lifestyle, some have unusual habits.

This list might make you feel good about some bad habits you may have.
I suggest you better live to a 100 to justify those habits or simply quit.

Emma Morano (Italy, 117 years old)
Smoked until she was 100
Ate two raw eggs every day

Fredie Blom lived to be 114 years old
smoked cigars and drank whiskey.

Jiroemon Kimura (Japan, 116 years old)
Ate a lot of soybeans and drank green tea

Alice Herz-Sommer (Czech Republic, 110 years old)
Played the piano every day until she was 110
Said that music was her “secret weapon” for staying healthy and happy

Salustiano Sanchez-Blazquez (Spain, 112 years old)
Walked 10 miles a day until he was 112
Said that the key to his longevity was “hard work and a good diet”

Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper (Netherlands, 115 years old)
Said that the secret to her long life was “a positive attitude and a sense of humor”

Given their physical health problems to get around and do things they would like to, social isolation that leads to boredom and loneliness or simply their personality can sometimes make them behave in eccentric ways. How different is that from the behaviors’ of todays youngsters?

What ever the oddities and habits, food played an important role in their ability to stay immune and overcome diseases.

What Was Food Like 100 Years Ago?

Food centenarians ate in their early life is a major reason for their long life and health. Unprocessed, natural and wholesome food was a gift, which modern generation is deprived of.

100 years ago, food was much simpler, local, seasonal and mostly fresh. People ate fruits, vegetables, legumes, roots and tubers, nuts and seeds, grains that grew locally as these were affordable and readily available. Fat and protein came from milk and the little meat they ate.

They cooked food from scratch with little and basic ingredients depending on the geography. People used their basic knowledge of preservation like drying, salting and pickling to store food.

Transport and refrigeration was expensive, hence availability of processed food was very low.

The first refined foods were developed in the 1800s.
The first refined flour was produced in 1784 by a Scottish miller named Andrew Meikle.
The first refined sugar was produced in 1799 by a German chemist named Andreas Marggraf.

The Industrial Revolution led to inventions such as refrigeration, food processing, and long-distance transportation. The rise of advertising delivered the message of convenience that processed food brings, which led to the decline of home cooking.

Blue Zones, Home of the Centenarians

The Blue Zones are five regions of the world where people live exceptionally long lives.

These regions are 

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Ikaria, Greece and
  • Loma Linda, California.

Surprising or not, all the Blue Zones happen to be coastal areas and experts have attributed the longevity of centenarians to factors like Access to fresh food, Physical activity, Social support and a temperate climate that is beneficial for health.

Although we could find centenarians anywhere, a large number of them are found living in the blue zones. It’s no wonder that the relaxing ambiance of costal regions played an important role in their longevity.

Impact of Coastal landscape on our mind

A beach is a great retreat and always finds an important spot in the travel list.

Need I say more about the Coastal landscapes? I heard you. However, I take the liberty to remind you and nudge those avoiding the beach citing busy work life. Go to the beach.

The calm and spacious ambiance, majestic clouds, sunrises or sunsets and the flock of birds is a visual treat uplifting and inspiring.
While the sound of waves, the smell of the salty air, and the sight of the horizon is calming and relaxing, reducing stress and anxiety.

Spending time at the ocean can help one feel more connected to the natural world, something centenarians enjoy everyday. And all these have positive impacts on our mind which could only mean one thing, well-being.

A few examples of centenarians from different countries.

  • Kane Tanaka (Japan, 1903-2022): 119 years old, supercentenarian, lived through 2 world wars, Great Depression, and rise of internet
  • Jeanne Calment (France, 1875-1997): 122 years old, supercentenarian, lived through French Revolution, World War I, and World War II
  • Norman Lloyd (United States, 1914-2021): 106 years old, actor, director, producer, pioneer in television
  • Alice Herz-Sommer (Germany, 1906-2019): 112 years old, pianist, Holocaust survivor, played music in concentration camp
  • Emma Morano (Italy, 1899-2017): 117 years old, supercentenarian, lived through 3 world wars, Spanish flu pandemic, and rise of atomic bomb

Closing with a Good news

“With age, comes wisdom”.

who said it?

An adage that never gets old.

Statistics show that the number of centenarians is expected to triple by 2050.
Does that mean we can look up to them to repurpose our wasted life? I believe so.

100 Years and Beyond: The Centenarian Lifestyle graph

Centenarians are living proof to the power of life, their optimistic attitude towards life is a valuable lesson for us. They are an inspiration and show us that it is never too late to live a full and meaningful life.

Some of my teenage time went to serve my grandparents during their final years.
Ours was a joint family.
I would give a shave to my grandpa, a pedicure and a bath. My grandma loved those pedicures too. Occasionally I made them snacks and always bought them medicines. Doing so, I always felt blessed.

Elderly people are NOT all the same, not frail, not helpless, not forgetful, not lonely and not a burden to society, if anything centenarian lifestyle is an important aspect to make our lives worthy.

Respect them.

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  1. 7 June 2023

    Love it – really good stuff – who doesn’t want to live longer?

    • 7 June 2023

      Everyone except those who are scared of the future that doesn’t exist 😀
      Thank you for the encouraging words Tony.

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