Updated: 22 December 2018
How do average people live well past 100 years of age and significantly longer with a 95 year average lifespan? Does it have anything to do with genetics, environment, habit, diet, exercise or something more or absent thereof?
First let’s examine some of the longest living centurion biographies on record. And after reviewing these biographies, we’ll connect the dots to make a correlation to their longevity lifestyle secrets.
During the 19th – late 20th Century – interviews before death relevant to lifestyle and culture to include biography and genealogy was not captured through a scientific or epidemiological process. Therefor I’ll render an opinion based on assumptions extracted from the limited amount of biographical data of deceased subjects; and references at the end of the article.
Super Centenarian – Deceased Subjects of Observation,
Jeanne Calment (21 February 1875 – 4 August 1997) she lived 122 years, 164 days, place of residence Arles, France. Jeanne Louise Calment surpassed previous Guinness Book of Record holders as the longest living confirmed human. It was said Jeanne smoked more than 2 cigarettes per day and after an operation in 1994 she weighed 99 pounds where she became dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. She attributed her long life and youthful appearance to olive oil which she used religiously in her food and on her skin. Included within her diet she drank port wine and consumed ~2lbs of chocolate weekly. In total she outlived 329 undisputedly-verified super centenarians
Sarah Knauss-Clark (24 September 1880 – 30 December 1999) she lived 119 years, 97 days, place of residence, Hollywood and Allentown, Pennsylvania. Sarah had a career as an insurance office manager and upon her marriage to Abraham Lincoln Knauss (December 19, 1878 – March 1, 1965) she spent her time as a home maker and was a skilled seamstress. Mrs. Knauss was known as an extraordinary woman that pushed the envelope of longevity. It was said, the reason for her longevity stemmed from the fact she was a very tranquil person and nothing fazed her. Also it is known that she enjoyed life because she had her health and could do what she wanted. Her interests and foods included: viewing golf tournaments, needlepoint and nibbling on chocolate turtles, cashews and potato chips. Her only child Kathryn Knauss Sullivan (November 17, 1903 – January 21, 2005) lived to be 101 and was 96 at the time of her mother’s death.
Lucy Hannah (16 July 1875 – 21 March 1993) she lived 117 years, 248 days, place of residence Born in Linden, Alabama and died in Detroit. She moved in the great migration to escape the racial tensions that were prominent of the times in the Deep South. Her parents survived slavery for which it is noted they were whipped daily until their freedom and thereafter suffered from trauma as a result of the physical and mental scars. Lucy married John Hannah in 1901 and had 8 children together. Two of her children were still living at the time of her death. The two sisters lived to be 100 years of age. And Hannah’s mother lived to the age of 99.
Marie-Louise Meileur (29 August 1880 – 16 April 1998) She lived 117 years, 230 days, place of residence Kamouraska, Quebec, Canada. It is known that Marie was married twice and between the two marriages had 4 children with first husband Etienne Leclerc from 1900 and where he died in 1911. And then the super centenarian had six other children through her second marriage with Hector Meileur whom she married in 1915 until his death in 1972. She had 85 grandchildren, 80 great-grandchildren and 57 great-great- grandchildren and 4 (3 x great grandchildren). Marie’s death was the result of a blood clot.
Maria Capovilla (14 September 1889 – 27 August 2006) She lived 116 years, 347 days and was recognized by Guinness World Records during her reign as the world’s oldest living person ever in South America and the southern hemisphere in Guayaquil. Ecuador. It is also interesting to note she is also the oldest human that had a life span living within three centuries. Born as Maria Esther Heredia Lecaro; she married a military officer, Antonio Capovill after his first wife died. They had five children together, three (Hilda, 81, Irma, 80 and Anibal 78) of which were at Maria’s side prior to death. Antonio passed in 1949. She had 12 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and 2 great, great grandchildren. She enjoyed watching TV, reading and walked without the assistance of a cane, but helped by an aide prior to the day of her passing. She also never smoked or drank hard liquor.
Although home bound for the last two years of life, she shared her home with eldest daughter Hilda and son-in-law. In an interview her traditional view of men and women stated her dislike, about how women today are permitted to court men, rather than men courting women.
During 2006 near time of death Maria’s health took a turn for the worse. She could no longer read, she nearly stopped talking and no longer could walk without the assistance of two people. Just prior to her death she was able to sit comfortably in her chair and fan herself. She died just 18 days before her 117th birthday. Cause of death Pneumonia.
Tane Ikai (18 January 1879 – 12 July 1995) She lived 116 years, 175 days, place of birth Kansei, Japan. She is the only fully verified person within Asia to reach 116 years of age. She married at the age of 20 had 3 sons and one daughter. At the age of 38 she left her husband. At the age of 89 she entered a nursing home. At the age of 109 she had a stroke where she remained bed ridden in a hospital until her death. Cause of death kidney failure.
Besse Cooper (26 August 1896 – 4 December 2012) 116 years and surpassing Elizabeth Bolden’s 116 years, 118 days. Besse Berry Brown-Cooper of Sullivan County, Tennessee was married to Luther Cooper and had 4 children and widowed after 39 years of marriage. Luther was 68 at the time of his death. Mrs. Cooper lived on her farm and moved into a nursing facility at the age of 105. Recently, Cooper reached her 116th birthday in August 2012, the second-oldest verified person from Tennessee and surpassing Elizabeth Bolden who died in December 2006, at the age of 116 years and 118 days. When asked what the secret to her super centurion lifespan, she stated, “minding my own business” working outdoors and avoiding most junk foods and ate lots of vegetables. Occupation: retired teacher. Cause of Death: Respiratory Failure.
Elizabeth Bolden (15 August 1890 – 11 December 2006) She lived 116 Years, 118 days and at the time of her death recognized by Guinness as the oldest living person. She was born in Somerville, Tennessee, the daughter of freed slaves. She had 7 children, only two of which were alive at the time of her death (Esther, 89 and Mamie 86). Elizabeth had 40 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren, 150 great-great grandchildren and 220 (3 x great grandchildren) and an amazing 75 (4 x great grandchildren). And in her final days of life she resided within a Memphis Tennessee nursing facility. Elizabeth also lived a life spanning within three centuries.
Maggie Barnes (6 March 1882 – 19 January 1998) She lived 115 years, 319 days, place of residence, Johnston County, North Carolina. She was born to a slave and married a tenant farmer. Eleven of her children preceded her in death, while 4 of her other children survived her after death. Mrs. Barnes died of a complication from a minor foot infection.
Christian Mortensen (16 August 1882 – 25 April 1998) He lived 115 years, 252 days, last place of residence San Rafael, California. Born in a village near the city of Skanderborg, Denmark, he then settled in Chicago and worked various trades: tailor, milkman, and restaurateur and factory worker. He was married 10 years, had no children and never remarried. Retiring near Galveston Bay, Texas; 28 years later it was claimed at the age of 96 he rode his bike to the Aldersly Retirement Community in San Rafael where he stayed until his death. He’s the oldest living male to date.
When asked for advice on his long life; he stated, “stay away from alcohol; drink lots of water, keep a positive attitude, keep good friends and singing” will help you live a long time. His diet preferences were mainly a vegetarian diet and he also drank a lot of boiled water. He smoked cigars believing if in moderation, it was not unhealthy.
In order to find out how these 10 individuals lived so long – we’ll compare environment, lifestyle, diet, behaviors and habits with the online data available. In this way we may understand what common denominators may have contributed to their long life spans.
Centenarian interview statements revealed prior to death [in bold – represents a healthy habit or behavior of moderation], were claimed by each individual to contribute to their long lives spans.
Use olive oil religiously in foods
Port “Red” Wine
Drink lots of water
Drink boiled water
Rub olive oil on skin
Smoke Cigarettes and/or Cigars
Very tranquil person
Mind my own business, stress reduction
Keep a positive attitude and sense of humor
Perceived overall Good health
Ability to be mobile
Listen to Radio
Good Family and friend relationships
One has purpose in life
High Cancer Statisic- Environment (Reference article #11, 12, 13, 14)
California, Florida, Texas and New York (High Cancer States)
Centurions lived most of their life – on average in low cancer per Capita States
Cause of death,
No cause listed, “respiratory failure”
All but one of ten centenarians lived in a statistically low cancer state(s) [excluding those that lived outside of the United States]. And all but one of the 10 was male. Christian Mortensen lived in Texas 28 years and then moved to a California nursing home at the age of 96. He lived ~48 years in a statistically high cancer state and where it appears he spent the majority of his first ~68 years of life in Skanderborg, Denmark. He lived ~116 years of age beating all other fellow men in longevity.
It looks like all 10 of these individuals lived within large families; most were married and/or had large circles of various interactive social-family relationships. It also appears mobility, stress reduction and positive mood was important contributors to overall wellbeing. As far as their habits and diets – it appeared they moderated the good with a “little” bad. For the most part, their diets appeared healthy and most consumed very little if any alcohol.
Recall, 9 out of 10 of these super centenarians where female. It is a fact that women live longer than men. This has a lot to do with metabolism, genetics, diet, body weight, habits and lifestyle. What specifically separates men from women? Men are greatly driven by hormones (read importance of testosterone on men’s health, Ref #8) which tend to cause more risky behavior and mood-stress characteristics. Also when testosterone levels drop, or become unbalanced in men during the aging process, this change tends to have a significant impact on men’s health and longevity. Male hormone replacement therapy monitored by a physician can help with low testosterone production, which may help support vitality and longevity while reducing health risk.
These centenarians shows us they lived relatively balanced lifestyles. They were physically and mentally active throughout their life span; they enjoyed personal and social gatherings and relationships mostly within large circles of friends and family. And for those residing in the United States lived mostly within low statistical cancer states (Ref #11).
They lived purposeful and mobile lifestyles, had positive attitudes, maintained low levels of stress, had good sense of humor, enjoyed selfless endeavors and shared their life experiences and stories with others. They also lived life to the fullest and without the crutch of habitual vices and little need of medications.
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Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Oldest People. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldest_people#Oldest_people_ever
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Woodard, Marc. Pancreatic Cancer Statistics and Recommendations. MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. 24 November 2009. http://www.mirrorathlete.com/2009/11/24/mae-health-blog-pancreatic-cancer-statistics-and-recommendations/
Woodard, Marc. Is Pancreatic Cancer on the Rise? MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. 24 October 2009. http://www.mirrorathlete.com/2009/10/24/mae-health-blog-is-pancreatic-cancer-on-the-rise-part-1
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2018 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.com, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.