How to Live to 100, or Even 150…

You can be healthy and happy to the end. A growing number of centenarians show us how.

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| September 9th, 2011

“It’s a total cliché. You’re only as young as you think you are,” says Pat Herson, 84. ”I am fascinated with people. Everybody has a story to tell you. It’s often uplifting, exciting. I make a point of trying to talk to people to as many people as I can.” Herson has traveled to nearly fifty countries over her lifetime, often bringing her guitar and singing with local people.  At home, she frequently hikes with friends in Sequoia National Park, in California.

Religious belief is a longevity-boost. A variety of studies show that elderly women live longer when they attend services and pray privately. My grandmother, who lived independently until 92, kept the Sabbath and attended synagogue every Saturday, kept kosher, observed all fast days, and prayed at home. I never asked her the secret of her energy—I didn’t need to. 

QUIZ: How Healthy is Your Body?

For those seeking to add years with extraordinary health measures, Dr. Oz recommends hyperbaric oxygen therapy (only when done in the safety of a hospital), which keeps stem cells healthier. Sports stars and celebrities have been getting oxygen therapy for years. Eating about 30-40 percent fewer calories than normal or less than 2,000 calories a day—depending on your height and build—can turn on a body process called the “sirtuin” chemical pathway, which is associated with famine and makes your body conserve resources. Some believe it can extend your lifespan as well, though severely restricting calorie intake is a controversial practice. To capture the same results, Sirtris Pharmacueticals of Boston and other companies are investing in trials of sirtuin-related drugs .

While scientists look for the secret of youth, you can do your part to prevent wrinkles, of course, by taking care of your skin, staying out of the sun or wearing sunblock, maintaining a healthy BMI, and not smoking. One study found that facial-cream users looked about two-and-a-half years younger. Higher levels of estrogen can also keep skin elastic and prevent thinning.  Avoiding sugar may help, too.

Winslow keeps a pitcher of water on her desk and reminds herself to leave her chair and walk around. “When you’re 81, you’re not gorgeous,” she says. “I get up every morning and look in the mirror and all I can say is, ‘Thank god for another day.” If de Grey’s predictions are correct, we may be rising to many more mornings than we could ever imagine.  

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