Who's 100 and Why
by Annette Winter
...Make friends, influence
Interviews with centenarians reveal an absence of depression,
a willingness to adapt to challenges, and a continuing involvement
with life traits that have little correlation with income, social
status, or formal education.
"They display a remarkable ability to
renegotiate life at every turn," says Lynn Adler, J.D.,
who as founder of the National Centenarian Awareness Project,
a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating the country's
oldest citizens, and author of Centenarian: The Bonus Years
(Health Press, 1995) has surveyed several thousand 100-year-olds.
"Some people will say 'I've lost my spouse, my friends,
what's the use of going on?' Centenarians say 'I've lost my spouse,
my friends, and I will go on: These people are really on track
Even if you have lost people around you, you'll
go on longer in the company of others. When [Robert L. Kahn,
Ph.D.] tracked the social networks of study participants, he
found that those who'd continued to form new friendships over
their lifetimes retained social relationships well into their
later years. Many were also involved with activities that were
productive, but not necessarily moneymaking. A continuing involvement
with life means "going where people are whether a
church, civic, or recreational group and doing the things
the group is created for," says Kahn.
Longevity as a way of life
The outlook for life at 100 grows brighter each day. We're already
living longer and healthier than any previous generation
and enjoying it more. We can thank medical research for that:
It has banished many killers and is even now creating new drugs,
manipulating genes, and refining our diets to help prevent or
cure whatever continues to ail us. "Our generation has the
benefit of many more examples of people who are physically active
in advanced age," says the 50-something Adler. "Those
of us who are beginning our second 50 years can take heart and
create our own plan for this wonderful time of life." As
Adler points out, longevity itself is a 20th-century phenomenon.
Who knows what the 21st century will bring?