The secret to a long life is to stay busy, get plenty of exercise and don’t drink too much. Then again, don’t drink too little.
-- Hermann Smith-Johannson, 103-year-old cross-country skier, quoted in The New York Times, March 20, 1979.
April 3, 2007 -- The key to long life is a vivid interest in the world around you, a survey of 100-year-olds suggests.
That means people born when Teddy Roosevelt was president are watching music videos, ordering at Starbucks, and even listening to iPods, according to the poll from Evercare, a division of UnitedHealth Group focused on the health care needs of Americans aged 50 and older.
"We are finding older Americans are staying engaged and staying on top of what is going on in the world," Sherri Snelling, director of caregiving services at Evercare, tells WebMD.
Evercare's second annual telephone poll of 100 people aged 99 and older isn't a scientific study -- it's a snapshot of the attitudes of American 100-year-olds. Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents were white; 70% still lived at home; 95% were 100 or older; and 70% were women.
The point of the poll, Snelling says, is simply to look at what successful aging looks like.
"When we think about the different aspects of staying involved in the world around us, these nuggets of information are helpful to us," she says.
Some of those nuggets:
* 31% of centenarians have watched reality TV shows.
* 27% of centenarians have watched MTV or music videos.
* 1 in 7 centenarians has played video games.
* 68% of centenarians get their news from television, although 40% read newspapers.
* 11% of centenarians have ordered from Starbucks.
* When asked whom they most trust to tell the truth, 34% of centenarians chose their minister, rabbi, or priest -- just ahead of their doctor or nurse at 28%.
The most poignant finding is that 100-year-olds value their memories more than their physical comfort. When asked what they would like to change the most, 34% said "better memory" while 27% said "less aches and pains."
What was the most memorable day of their lives? Their wedding day, said 28% of centenarians.
On the other hand, 106-year-old Virginian Martha Hanks says there's no special secret to long life.
"I didn't do anything special," Hanks tells WebMD. "I just lived a normal life."