Do you want to live to 100 years? How about 110? Or 120?
Statistically, more and more people reach these milestones and in the next few decades, there’s a fairly strong possibility that lifespans beyond 130 will also begin to emerge.
Scientists have the advantage of an ever-growing pool of centenarians (those reaching 100 years) and supercentenarians – those rare folks who live past 110, since the fastest growing segment of the American population right now is people aged 100+.
Statistics show how the number of centenarians in the US has doubled every decade since the 1950s and they are expected to pass one million, when we reach 2050.
In addition, dogs living far beyond the expected lifetime are also emerging, one of them being Chilla, a 32-year-old mix of labrador and cattle dog. Chilla lived in Australia and her 32 years are considered the canine equivalent of a human person living to be 224 years. -Can you imagine how your life would be beyond 200..?
Yet, understanding the complexity of the longest-living is not within reach. In fact, there is a great deal we don’t know about what exactly determines a person’s lifespan.
The good news is, most centenarians and supercentenarians are quite healthy until very near the end of their lives and in particular, they display no signs of cognitive decline nor dementia. Conditions like depression, anxiety and stress disorders are almost nonexistent. In other words, people with brain diseases or those who suffer from cognitive or psychiatric problems don’t live to be 100.
Besides healthy brains with strong minds, there is no specific pattern or scientific explanations behind the longest lifespans. Neither the genetic footprint of the centenarians can directly explain why they live and thrive for such a long time, while others only stay alive for 85-95 years.
Not surprisingly, the usual recommendations for a long and healthy life are still valid: No smoking, no drinking of alcohol, get plenty of exercise and a well-balanced, correct diet. However, these recommendations apply in general and to the average population more than they apply to supercentenarians, who seem to be in a league of their own.
However, it turns out there is no magic bullet (or pill for that matter) that is capable of reversing time or the aging of the brain including memory loss and dementia (at least not one we remember right now).
You shouldn’t completely disregard the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices, because your diet and exercise levels will no doubt affect whether you live to the age of 70 or 90 years. However, in order to reach 100 years and beyond, you need that special extra. To some degree, your genetic make-up might add a bit to it, at least because it influences your choice of lifestyle and history of diseases. Yet, there’s no single gene that can take you beyond 100.
So, we are still left without a clue, aren’t we….? Since all the above facts don’t really bring us closer to the secret behind agelessness.
Now, even if the scientific explanations for longevity remain elusive, researchers studying centenarians have found one common trait in people aged 100+, and this trait may be the best kept secret to a long and happy life.
What’s the secret?
When scientists ask centenarians about it, things begin to lighten up. In fact, there is a strong connection between agelessness and a personality full of optimism, positive attitudes, confidence and a zest for life.
In fact, most centenarians and supercentenarians do not sense their chronological age, as on average they feel and behave 20-30 years younger. This reflects their optimism, positive attitudes, confidence and a zest for life.
In reality, personality characteristics and worldviews may play a more significant role than lifestyle or history of diseases, when it comes to aging well – that is well beyond 100.
In interviews with centenarians and supercentenarians, the following notions (or centuries of wisdom) come up, when they are asked to reveal why they’ve lived so long:
- Keeping a positive attitude
- Find a passion and live it
- Living independently
- Exercising a bit every day (mainly basic activities like dog walking, gardening, biking)
- Healthy eating
- Seeing family and friends often
- Pet ownership (mostly dogs or cats)
As for the pet ownership, researchers have discovered that owning a dog can significantly turn back the aging clock, since a dog’s company makes you behave as if you were ten years younger. Also, living with a dog keeps you immune system in perfect shape, whereby your physiological stamina and resilience are facilitated.
Besides these aspects, the supercentenarians time and again point out stress and anxiety to be the most important things to avoid. Not that these people haven’t had their loads of problems in life, but they differ in how well they cope with it.
Rather than dwelling on life’s problems, centenarians and supercentenarians let it go. And they are in actual fact very happy people.
In this regard, you shouldn’t underestimate happiness. It turns out that happy people live 35% longer, and besides, self-reported happiness in life increases health and longevity.
Positive thoughts and a happy attitude initiate processes in your cells that strengthen your immune system, boost positive emotions and cognition, reduce pain, and convey stress relief. In fact, science shows that happiness can alter your genes and the way the DNA is brought to use or instead silenced. In other words, a deep sense of happiness changes the way your genes function by turning them off and on.
Do I need to say that owning a dog makes people significantly happier…?
So, it’s no surprise that centenarians and supercentenarians are a happy, optimistic lot.