What are the secrets to a long life and healthy aging? Who better to ask than some of the oldest among us: centenarians, who have topped the age of 100. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 84,000 centenarians currently live in the United States and the number continues to grow. By 2040, this fast-growing segment of the American population is expected to reach 580,000--a seven-fold increase. How can you boost your chances of one day joining their ranks?
Some clues appear in a recent national poll of centenarians, which asked 100 people turning 100 or older about their lifestyle choices and advice. The survey from UnitedHealthcare, called "Evercare 100@100," reveals a number of commonalties that many in this age group share. Consider the following tips that promote longevity and wellness through the years:
1. Stay current.
One key to longevity seems to be keeping up with the times. Though it goes against the stereotype that the elderly are unable or unwilling to learn anything new, an increasing number of centenarians are embracing new media and technologies. Twelve percent surveyed have used an iPod--three times the number reported three years ago.
Eleven percent have watched a video on YouTube and, compared with just one percent two years ago, eight percent have sent a text message. Curiosity and creativity are among the qualities shared by healthy elders who recommend always trying to learn something new.
2. Stay connected.
Daily communication with loved ones may also contribute to living longer. A large percentage of those polled--82 percent--talk to a friend or family member every day, and nearly 80 percent feel that an active social life is more important to maintain as you age than an active sex life. Some studies have shown that those with satisfying social relationships (including a stable marriage) experience less mental decline due to aging and remain more mentally alert than their more isolated peers.
3. Eat, sleep, and exercise.
Eating right, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly are at the top of the to-do list for people who have made it to 100. Three-quarters of respondents make it a point to eat nutritious, balanced meals and get eight hours of sleep every night. Nearly half walk or hike once a week for health benefits, and more than 30 percent get weekly exercise from activities like gardening. Focusing on these areas can help you maintain a healthy weight over your lifetime and feel better mentally as well as physically. The "New England Centenarian Study," conducted by Boston University's School of Medicine, found that few centenarians are obese and are almost always lean, especially men.
4. Stick to routines.
Many of those who live the longest have a fondness for daily and weekly routines. In addition to healthy habits formed by connecting with others and staying fit, nearly 75 percent make it a point to laugh or giggle every day. More than 60 percent meditate or practice some other "spiritual" activity each day to help keep them centered.
Giving back is another avenue to longer-term health and happiness. Close to 90 percent of centenarians believe that volunteering helps improve emotional health and can make people happier. Seventeen percent have volunteered in the past six months.
6. Feel satisfied.
It's often said that the secret to happiness is wanting what you have. Centenarians seem to prove this point, with the oldest Americans harboring few regrets and expressing contentment with the lives they've led. In an impressive show of strong adjustment and coping skills, nearly 80 percent said there was nothing they would have done less of; over 60 percent said there was nothing they would have done more of in their lives. In the end, what more could you want from a long life than that?