“To live to 100, you have to be well physically and socially and psychologically and spiritually. These are not people who are dying in skilled nursing. They’re actively living in the community.”
And they’ve been lucky. To live to 100, today’s centenarians had to survive their earliest years: More than 25 percent of children born in the early 1900s died before they reached school age. Life at the turn of the last century was hard, and often, it was short. The average life expectancy was 47.
Today’s centenarians had to survive the war years, as well as the diseases that in the 1960s struck down so many of their generation in middle age, such as heart attack and cancer.
“We’ve seen many advances in medicine,” Rodrigues says, “and we’ve seen people manage chronic disease with medication. Now we’re living longer but we’re living with more chronic conditions, like heart disease and arthritis — but those conditions are managed with medication.”
To live to 100, the oldest Americans long ago learned to keep going, to walk and garden, to spend time with family and friends. The key to a long life, experts agree, is moderation and involvement.
“In every centenarian study I’ve seen in the past 20 years, the data is consistent,” Osborne says. “You’ve got to believe in something beyond yourself. You have to take care of yourself. You’ve got to exercise in some way. You need to be around people and give back to your community.
“You have to have a purpose for getting up every day.”
Lou Weintraub does. Really, he always has.
A longtime executive with San Francisco’s Jewish Community Federation before he retired, he has served on the board of a number of commissions and nonprofits in Sacramento, where he moved in 1989 after meeting his wife.
His eyes bother him a bit these days. He was diagnosed with macular degeneration at age 98. That’s when he gave up his driver’s license and stepped back a bit from some of his activities. But he still works out at the gym three times every week, and he still attends Renaissance Society classes on the CSUS campus. He goes to meetings with his volunteer groups and does his own taxes.
“What I see about Lou is that he cares more about other people than himself,” his wife says. “He’s always caring about somebody else.”
©2014 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
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