Living to 100 isn’t all that rare anymore. In fact, the number of U.S. centenarians has grown 65 percent since 1980 with more than 53,000 centenarians living in the United States according to the 2010 census (330 of those have reached super centenarian status of 110 or older). Is there a secret to living a long and healthy life? Here’s what centenarians have to say.
Life Lessons from Centenarians
United Healthcare’s 100@100 survey found these common themes.
All About Outlook – Approximately 61 percent of centenarians view themselves as being positive with a full quarter believing that a positive attitude is a key to staying healthy.
Move It or Lose It – Nearly half of centenarians interviewed say they walk or hike at least once a week. Of those, about a third exercises to strengthen muscles or for stress relief. Cardiovascular exercise indoors and gardening to keep active are also popular.
All You Have to Do Is Smile – Laughing and having a sense of humor is also important with 84 percent of centenarians saying that doing this is easy for them.
Age is Just a Number – Approximately 60 percent of centenarians say they don’t feel old and the rest said they didn’t start to feel that way until they were in their 80s.
Appreciate Your Youth – On average, centenarians felt most attractive at age 31, most energetic at 34, happiest at 44, healthiest at 46 and wisest at 49. However, they felt most content overall at age 56.
Blue Zones Back it Up
You may have heard about the Blue Zones or places around the world where people live longer, specifically into their 100s. Blue Zones locations are:
Loma Linda, California, United States
Nicoya, Coast Rica
Based on research in these places, some common characteristics for longevity have been found which are very similar to the ones listed above including exercise, stress relief and family. Additional lessons from centenarians in Blue Zones include:
Know Your Purpose – Having clear values, passions and talents can add seven years to your life.
The 80% Rule – This rule suggests you cut 20 percent of your calories with evidence based practices such as eating a big breakfast, eating with your family, using 10 inch plates and stoping when you feel 80% full.
Love Your Plants – Eating a diet that’s heavy on beans, nuts and green plants are common among these centenarians.
Have a Drink – This research has found that moderate drinkers (two to three drinks per day only) outlive non-drinkers.
Have Faith – Attending faith-based services four times per month can add four to 14 years to your life.
Find Community – Make sure you have a social circle that includes healthy-minded and supportive people to increase longevity.
Speaking of Community
There’s no easier place to practice these life lessons than in an active senior living community. They support this aging research too and are focused around keeping residents as active, independent and socially connected as possible. You’ll find monthly calendars filled with clubs, classes, events and outings along with amenities such as pools, fitness centers, restaurant-style dining and housekeeping and laundry services. It’s this convenient and carefree lifestyle that has more and more people moving to active senior living while they are completely healthy!
If you’re over 55 you may feel that downsizing is being pushed upon you at every turn. But, truth be told, it’s not the most desirable concept for most of us initially. We have worked hard for all that we’ve acquired in life, from our home to our stuff to our lifestyle in general. Why would we want to let that go? The answer requires a shift in mindset. While downsizing technically means to reduce in size it’s really more about creating the physical and mental space to enjoy what’s most important. And retirement is the perfect time to make that shift. Here’s how.
Everybody’s Doing It
We know the adage, ‘Just because your friend jumps doesn’t mean you have to.’ But when 40 percent of Americans aged 50 to 64 plan to move within the next five years according to the Demand Institute, there may just be something to the downsizing concept. What’s more, a study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that retirees who downsized are happier than those who stay put.
Why Less is More
Let’s dig in to why you might be happier with less. There’s actually some science behind it. Psychology Today* lists these benefits:
A sense of confidence and self-efficacy – It gives you the opportunity to put your problem-solving and decision-making skills to good use and success is clear to see.
More energy – When you’re in that ‘getting things done’ mode it energizes you and can make it easier to keep going with other to-dos.
Reduced anxiety – Its human nature to crave order and symmetry, and too much stuff can throw off that balance; getting rid of excess can restore a greater sense of calm.
Reduced tension at home – If you’re always losing things or you just can’t stand the mess, decluttering can actually help improve relationships between family members.
Finding lost treasures – When you have too much sometimes things that were truly special to you are forgotten; uncovering them again can be a wonderful surprise!
Step One: Take inventory of what you have by making a list of categories: bedding, dishes, electronics, etc. You can be as detailed (or not) as you like, but prepare to be surprised at how much you’ve accumulated! How many sheet sets do you really need?
Step Two: Designate a downsizing zone to sort your items. This could be in the garage, the dining room you never use or wherever you have some room to spread out.
Step Three: Take it slow and focus on one category or room of the house at a time so you don’t become overwhelmed. It’s also helpful to set a timetable of when you want the process finished to keep from procrastinating. And, once you start a downsizing task, set a timer to keep you focused. It’s easy to get lost reminiscing!
Step Four: Start sorting into piles such as Keep, Sell, Donate, Recycle or Gift. To help decide, ask yourself if you’ve used the item in the last six months. Clothing is always a particular challenge, but by turning all your hangers backwards until an item is worn, you can get an idea of what you actually wear. For keepsakes it’s sometimes easier on the heart to gift to family or friends. You can also take photos of special items, like children’s artwork, to save space but preserve the memories.
Step Five: Invite friends and family over. Downsizing is more manageable, and more fun, with the people you love by your side to help and reminisce.
Over 55 Communities are a Great Move
Why stop with downsizing your stuff? You may be surprised to learn that over 55 communities are becoming an increasingly popular choice for retirees. Because of the active, convenient and carefree lifestyle they offer, these communities are ideal places to create that mental space we talked about above.
The benefits of over 55 communities include:
More freedom – Without the stress of home responsibilities weighing on you – mortgage, home insurance, property taxes, repair bills – you can finally enjoying the life you deserve.
More time – With housekeeping, meals, and other daily chores typically taken care of, you can trade your have to-do list for a want to-do list.
More opportunity – It’s easy to stay connected with a range of social opportunities, educational and enrichment programs as well as organized activities and outings to enjoy.
More amenities – With the resort-like amenities many communities offer, you can feel like you’re on vacation without ever leaving home.
>Better location – Over 55 communities are often located in the center of it all, making life much more convenient.