“I mind my own business and I don’t eat junk food.” (1)
It seems like good practical advice, especially when the source is someone who has just turned 116. The Guinness Book of World Records has certified a Georgia woman, Besse Cooper, as the world’s oldest person. Cooper is one in a billion, according to Robert Young, a consultant on gerontology to Guinness. (2)
The number of people living past the century mark has been increasing. A study by the Danish Aging Research Center is projecting that half of the babies born in the U.S. today are likely to live past 100. Dr. Kaare Christensen, the study’s lead author notes that this gives a very different perspective on an individual’s life plan.(3)
While Besse Cooper followed two cardinal rules in her life, she also incorporated another component: daily Bible study. According to the North Georgia Advocate, Mrs. Cooper attended church into her 90’s and until a couple of years ago read her Bible daily.(4)
Mrs. Cooper’s life demonstrates what studies have been finding. The benefits of spiritually are: longevity, better health, lower levels of depression and anxiety and improved ability to cope with everyday life.(medicinenet.com)
It isn’t longevity alone people are seeking but also the desire to put more “life” in the years. Media commercials show more and more images of active seniors.
And the 2012 Olympics included a 71 year old dressage competitor from Japan. Hiroshi Hoketsu first competed in 1964 Tokyo Games. Since then, he continued training and competing at the sport’s highest levels. While working in corporate management, he would ride before work every morning. One publication noted Hoketsu,”embod[ied] many of the best attributes of the Games – stamina, discipline, consistent athletic excellence, and, most important, an uncanny ability to defy the perceived limits of age.” (5)
As the executive director of the Japan Equestrian Federation, Hideki Yamauchi, observed, “He has a strong will to improve himself and is never self-satisfied.” Asked about his key to his competition longevity, Hoketsu said, “Keep the motivation and you will keep young.”(6)
More than anomalies, these outliers crack open the possibilities of active living no matter how many trips around the sun.
(1) “Walton Woman is 116,” The Atlanta Journal Constitution, 28 August, 2012, B2.