Is it possible to live beyond 100, can our choices make a difference?

There is a really interesting article on the BBC site today, (interesting for me anyway). It asks the question – “What do you need to do to live beyond 100?”. Yep, I have a skeptics hat on, and so I am wondering if it is just the usual “eat your veg and take plenty of exercise” stuff or if they have something more credible.

So what have I found? There are no definitive answers (not a surprise), but still, there are some interesting observations, and also Prof Tim Spector, an expert on ageing from Kings College London, is quoted as saying about the 100+ folks … “The science is slightly baffled by this we still don’t really understand what makes a centenarian because all of them are unique“.  Now perhaps that is indeed why I like this article; it is honest and does not proffer any false promises.

OK, so what science do we have today, what do we actually know?

  • One aspect of the article is to suggest a decrease in mortality figures among those who put others before themselves isl perhaps because of the helpers high – apparently this has a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.
  • OK yes, I gave it a bit of a thumbs down, but in fact regular exercise and also eating your fruit and veg really does help.
  • There is also a claim that Caloric restriction might work. It works for yeast, fish, rodents and dogs, but has yet to be proven to work for humans – so far it is looking good – but do you really want to live in a state of perpetual starvation.

What is indeed interesting are the observations made by those still alive …

“My twin sister was a terrible pessimist, she died when she was not yet 70 because she never laughed, never. Laughing is beautiful though,” says 108-year-old Alice Herz-Sommer.

“I’m an optimist, for me it’s only the good things, never a bad thought,” she says.

Born in 1903, Herz-Sommer has managed to retain a positive outlook despite a horrific start to life. The oldest living survivor of the Holocaust, she was imprisoned in Terezin (also known as Theresienstadt) concentration camp, near Prague, with her young son Raphael.

She survived the war by playing the piano in concerts within the camp. Her husband died in Germany at Belsen concentration camp.

Now that is indeed fascinating, her “twin” (same genetics) is dead before 70, yet she lives on to be 108 and thrives. It would indeed suggest that your outlook and willingness to live life makes a difference – and I have no idea why.

Here are a few more words from those that are 100+ …

Peggy Hovell, 100

Her plans for a charity parachute jump in her 90s were thwarted on medical advice.

“They said that if I did that jump it would probably tear my retina and give me blindness. I couldn’t get a doctor’s certificate after that,” says Hovell.

Rather than slowing down as she gets older, the centenarian is actually speeding up.

“I just love driving and I like driving fast,” says Hovell, who used to drive a van and deliver groceries during World War II.

Ah but how about my favorite cigar-smoking actor George Burns, who died at the age of 100, who once said …

“It takes only one drink to get me drunk. The trouble is, I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or the fourteenth,”

I also recall him being interviewed at the age of 100. The interviewer points out his cigar and drink, and then asks, “What has your doctor got to say about this?“. He famously replied, “Nothing, he’s dead“.

So how do you live to be 100 and beyond? Sorry, no magic answer, but it does look as if there is real evidence that being altruistic and maintaining a positive outlook may indeed greatly help.

OK my fellow skeptics, time for you to jump in here, what do you think, is this credible, can our outlook dramatically change the length of our lifespan?

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