What it takes to Live to 100 and Beyond
Aging Matters

If you're hoping to live to 100, you need to watch more than your diet. A study of people in remote Italian villages who lived past 90 found that they tended to have certain psychological traits in common, including stubbornness and resilience.

According to psychologist Susan Pinker, the Italian island of Sardinia has more than six times as many centenarians as the mainland and ten times as many as North America. Why? It's not a sunny disposition or a low-fat, gluten-free diet that keeps the islanders healthy -- it's their emphasis on close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions.

The older adults tended to also possess traits such as controlling, domineering and stubborn. But the oldest old, 90 to 100-somethings also displayed qualities of resilience and adaptability to change. These older folks have lived through tough circumstances like depressions, migrations, and losing loved ones to death.

Most of the older adults were still active, working in their homes and on the land, giving them a purpose in life even after they reached old age.

AARP believes the number of centenarians will grow twelvefold between 2000 and 2060. And if you're one, you will need a means to thrive and be able to afford to live the life you want to live.

Here's where to start

Health - Your health has more to do with the choices you make each day. Begin to embrace a culture of health that focus more on preventing disease and well-being throughout life.

Wealth - Plan ahead so you don't outlive your money. Build your savings to afford to live the life you want to live. It's not about saving for financial hardship.

Self - Challenge outdated attitudes and stereotypes about aging. More positive self-perceptions of aging associated with living longer with less disability.

Another study found that centenarians disprove the ageist myth "the older you get, the sicker you get." The oldest old live 90-95% of their very long lives in excellent health, only to experience illnesses in the very last few years of their lives. Thus, it appears that in order to live to 100, one must age slowly and delay and/or escape age-associated diseases. How they achieve the survival advantage is still a mystery though it is becoming increasingly clear that a substantial genetic advantage plays a role in their ability to live 20-25 years beyond average life expectancy.

Current genetic studies of centenarian siblings may identity of some of these genes in the near future. Identifying such genes may yield new information about how people age differently and what regulates differences in susceptibilities to various diseases associated with aging.

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Carol Marak, aging advocate and editor at Seniorcare.com. She's earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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