100 and Counting

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful lady who was 100 years old.  Quite amazing to think that she was born during the final years of the First World War. It got me thinking about the increasing number of people who are living to be 100 or older - do they have anything in common besides their age? Research finds that they have little in common physically beyond being physically active, most not smoking, and most maintaining a fairly constant weight throughout their lives. We also know that 85% of centenarians are women. Women do tend to live longer than men and there are various hypotheses as to why. Some think it may be because of the protective benefits of female hormones or better social networking. Others suggest it may be because women generally engage in fewer risky behaviors. Genetics also play a part. A study comparing 2,800 identical and fraternal twins in Denmark found that genetics accounted for 26% of male longevity and 23% of female longevity. From a psychological perspective, studies show that centenarians do share similar personality traits. For example, they tend to be more independent-minded and self reliant. They have a love of learning that accompanies them throughout their lives. They are resilient in adapting to change and loss, and they have an ability, or willingness, to forgive and let go of grievances. They share a sense of gratitude and optimism. And, last but not least, they tend to have a good sense of humor.  What this research tells me is that the stereotypes about aging are wrong. Every age has its benefits - the trick is to focus on the benefits of your current age and experience your current age as the best of times. Optimists tend to put the positives in the foreground and the negatives in the background. With age comes benefits: more wisdom, less peer pressure, more time, better quality friendships, pride in age, greater emotional stability, and an appreciation of the circle of life. While we may not have all of the traits mentioned above, changing our thinking about aging can help to reinforce the notion that life at any age can be fun. When we start with this presupposition, we are more likely to find enjoyment in whatever we do. Enjoying life in turn fosters good health, happiness, and......longevity. Here's to reaching 100!