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Senior Health and Happiness: Super Centenarians

By , 8:06 pm on

As a child, I was lucky enough to go stay with my beloved Grandma, my Dad’s mother. She was just what a grandma ought to be: a great cook, a wonderful teacher, a person who could let you just be and would not spend too much of her valuable time wondering where my brother and I were and what we were doing.  She trusted us not to go too far, not to do anything too bad and to come home in time for dinner so we did not keep my Grandfather waiting.

She would be a 127, if she were alive today.  She came to mind when I read about Mrs. Kathryn Dwinnell, the woman who recently became Nebraska’s newest super centenarian. A super centenarian is someone who reaches the age of 107.  We have 7, which puts us in the 3rd slot behind South Dakota and Iowa.  JoAnne Young, of the Lincoln Journal Star, reported that Mrs. Dwinnell had recently slowed down; at 101, she had planned her daughter’s funeral and flown by herself to Maryland to attend it.  She still exercises both her body and mind—on weight machines and reciting poetry.   She’s a model for the 80- and 90- year-olds who live in the same facility with her. If that is slowing down, I need to speed up quite a lot, just to be in the same class as Mrs. D.

Researchers say to live to be such a ripe old age is a combination of lifestyle factors and attitude.  They are defining “lifestyle” as hard work, intellectual challenges and lots of energy.  Attitude means positivity and willingness to overcome obstacles.     Others consider a person’s longevity to come from about 1/3 genetics and 2/3 lifestyle choices, with lifestyle meaning eating right, exercising both brain and body, maintaining social ties, and keeping a lifelong sense of purpose.  While I haven’t met Mrs. D., I suspect she embodies all these approaches.  I know my Grandma did.

Something not commonly mentioned in a discussion about longevity is civility.   Maybe this is because it is part of the attitude of overcoming obstacles, by using kindness, generosity, and gratitude instead of employing brute force, base rudeness, and a lack of consideration for others at any level.  My Grandma taught me to be a seamstress and a cook.  She also taught me manners.  Any lack of consideration or even a hint of rudeness caught her full attention.  I can vividly remembering a lesson she taught about politely receiving compliments on my red hair, even if I did hate it at the time. From the young to the mature, we can all benefit from civility. It’s another lifestyle choice and certainly supports maintaining social ties and mental sharpness since it often requires a lot of creativity.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Dwinnell!

Interested in the secrets to a long and happy life?  Take a look at this link for information about our book, The Best Kept Secrets to a Long and Happy Life.