Ever wonder what those hundred year-olds featured on the Smuckers’ segment of the Today Show, may have done right? In particular, what abilities might they possess, that allow them to live over a century, while still enjoying life?
Since the world we live in has changed dramatically for a person who is a hundred years-old today, chances are, the skills they used to reach their long life were probably learned at an early age. Scientists have been studying the traits of centenarians for a number of years now, trying to determine the skills that have provided them the ammunition for successful aging.
Here are three life skills that according to scientists play a significant role in a long happy life.
Resilience: Some people have more troubles and disappointments than most, but still manage to overcome their setbacks and achieve a good life. Those people who are resilient handle stress well and get more energetic and optimistic when the chips are down.
Resilient people are persistent. When hit with an obstacle, they look for another way to accomplish their goal. They have an amazing ability to find other people who can, and will, help them accomplish their goals.
Resilient people are happier and more positive than others. And resilient people do not give in to the urge for immediate satisfaction. They are willing to wait and work to get what they want.
Centenarian, Ada Brenner was a resilient woman. Emigrating from Italy as a young girl, she endured a lot of cultural and personal change. Newly married, she was disappointed to learn she could not have children but embraced a career as a mender in a woolen mill. In her early fifties, Ada’s husband died unexpectedly. Ada found solace spending time with her brother and sister-in-law. Finding love again in her mid-seventies, Ada remarried, only to lose her husband three weeks later to a heart attack. Ada moved back in to her previous home and rebuilt her life. In her later years, whether in an assisted living facility or a nursing home, Ada made the best of her time, making friends and enjoying her hobbies of knitting and teaching pasta making. In later life, her goal was to live to be 100. Ada passed away at 100 years and five days.
Belonging: Whether belonging to a community, a religious organization, a professional group or a tight knit family; a sense of belonging is central to aging well, because you matter to others and not just to yourself. Belonging gives us a sense of purpose.
According to executive coach and author Richard Leider, “Living on purpose fills us with passion, drive and direction”. Leider explains, “When everything else seems unsettled, uncertain, or impermanent, purpose gives us the will; not just the will to live, but to live long and well. It’s not a grand concept reserved for a gifted few, but something each one of us possesses, needing only to be uncovered”.
Wikipedia offers a long list of centenarians, including Bob Hope and Rose Kennedy, who are well known for their sense of purpose rather than their longevity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_centenarians
Interdependence: Getting older has its challenges. As we age, at least half of us will experience some form of disability, either short term or lasting. Being disabled will likely be inevitable for even the healthiest among us.
The skills valued today by our society are independence and self-reliance, so accepting that we need to rely on others may not come naturally but will allow us to make the most of our lives.
Consider how, after his accident, Christopher Reeve led a full life, grateful for what he had, his experiences, and the people around him.
As we begin the New Year, think about practicing the skills that have led others to age well. But beware, if thirty or forty years from now you plan to be featured on the Smuckers’ segment of the Today Show, I suspect the new age for inclusion might be 120!