Secrets of the Centenarians

The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

If you make it to the ripe old age of 100, hardly a day will go by that someone won’t ask you what’s the secret of living to such a ripe old age. There’s only about a 1 in 1,000 chance that a 100-year-old person will become a “supercentenarian” —live to see their 110th birthday. So how did these folks make it that far? Here’s how these old-timers answered the question.

 (Image credit: Johnrabe)

Gertrude Baines, Los Angeles, California (115)
Ate plenty of bacon, fried chicken, and ice cream, but “she never did drink, she never did smoke, and she never did fool around.”

Dolly Saville, Wendover, England (100 years old)
The world’s oldest barmaid began “pulling pints” (pouring beer) at the Red Lion pub in 1940 and was still at it until shortly before her death in 2015. It’s estimated that she pulled more than 2 million pints over those 75 years. “I love my work and I love the people, it keeps me going and stops me from sitting around,” she said.

Fauja Singh, London, England (105)
Singh, also known as the “Turbaned Tornado,” took up marathon running in his 80s and was still competing at the age of 104. “To me, the secret is being happy, doing charity work, staying healthy, and being positive,” he says. “If there’s something you can’t change, then why worry about it? Be grateful for everything you have, stay away from people who are negative, stay smiling, and keep running.”

Pauline Spagnola, Plains Township, Pennsylvania (100)
“Drink a lot of booze!”

Hidekichi Miyazaki, Tokyo, Japan (104)
The world’s oldest competitive sprinter attributes his longevity to the fact that he “exercises daily, eats in moderation, and chews his food properly.”

Dorothy Howe, Saltdean, England (100)
“I put my health down to whiskey and cigarettes,” Howe told England’s  Daily Mail newspaper after hitting the century mark in November 2013. She prefers Bell’s Scotch whiskey and has smoked 15 Superking Black cigarettes every day since picking up the habit at the age of 16. That comes to more than 460,000 cigarettes over 84 years. “I keep telling myself that I’m going to quit smoking when they put the prices up, but that’s just not going to happen now.”

The Melis Family, Sardinia, Italy


The nine Melis siblings, age 78, 80, 81, 89, 91, 93, 97, 99, and 105, had a combined age of 818 years and 205 days in 2012, making them the world’s oldest living siblings. “We eat genuine food, meaning lots of minestrone soup and little meat, and we are always working,” said Adolfo Melis, who, at 89, was still tending bar in a local café.

Frank Huff, Marion, Illinois (100)
“Hard work, booze, and women,” Huff told an interviewer in 2015. When he was in his 90s, he had both knees replaced so that he could continue going to dances every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night. “I just live it day by day. I don’t make any plans 30 minutes ahead of time,” he said.

Marian Cannon Schlesinger (101)
“Just go ahead and do your thing no matter what,” Schlesinger, the ex-wife of historian Arthur Schlesinger, told the Atlantic magazine in 2013. “My mother had said, ‘It doesn’t really matter if your house is that dirty. Go ahead and do your thing. Don’t pay too much attention to housekeeping.’ Of course, she did have a maid who came in every day.

Elizabeth Sullivan, Fort Worth, Texas (105)
Sullivan drinks three cans of Dr. Pepper every day. “Every doctor tells me it’ll kill me. But they die and I don’t, so there must be a mistake somewhere.”

 Yisrael Kristal, Haifa, Israel (112)


Kristal, the world’s oldest living male in 2016, had no idea why he lived so long. “I believe that everything is determined from above, and we shall never know the reasons why,” he told Guinness World Records.

Peter Reilly, Saltcoats, Scotland (100)
Reilly, the world’s oldest altar “boy,” has served Mass every day for 91 years. “I don’t think I’ve missed Mass a day in my life,” he told the Scottish Daily Mail in 2015. “It must be one of my secrets for a long life,” along with “a healthy diet, saying your prayers, and moderation in everything.”

Tecumseh Deerfoot Cook, King William, Virginia (103)
Before his death in 2003, the retired chief of the Pamunkey tribe advised people that they should “eat plenty of raccoon and muskrats and drink Pamunkey River water…but lay off the possum.”

Thomas Spittle, Ipswich, England (100)
“Betting on horses, a pint a day, a puff on a pipe, and a fry-up (eggs, bacon, and fried tomatoes).”

Misao Okawa, Osaka, Japan (117 years old)


She ate lots of her favorite foods (mackerel sushi, beef stew, and spaghetti) and got plenty of sleep. “Eat and sleep and you will live a long time,” she said in 2014. “You have to learn to relax.”

Daisey Bailey, Detroit, Michigan (113)
Bailey took nips of bourbon whenever possible, ate lots of vegetables, and avoided beef. “She didn’t eat nothing but pork,” her granddaughter, Helen Arnold, told the Detroit News.

Emma Morano, Verbania, Italy (116)
Morano, the last living human born in the 1800s, has a glass of homemade brandy every day, and on doctor’s orders she’s eaten two raw eggs and one cooked egg daily since 1920. (That’s more than 105,000 eggs in all—70,000 of them raw.) She has only milk for dinner. One more factor she credits with giving her a long life: after divorcing her violent husband at the age of 38, she never remarried. “I didn’t want to be dominated by anyone,” she says.

Besse Cooper, Monroe, Georgia (116)
“I mind my own business and I don’t eat junk food.”

Susannah Mushatt Jones, Brooklyn, New York (116)
Jones, who died in May 2016, never had children, slept 10 hours a night, and ate four strips of bacon every day at breakfast. “I never drink or smoke. I surround myself with love and positive energy. That’s the key to long life and happiness.”

Bernice Madigan, Cheshire, Massachusetts (115)
“No children, no stress, and a spoonful of honey every day.” Madigan also ate her favorite breakfast—Eggo waffles smothered in banana slices, and four glazed donut holes—every day.

Tomoji Tanabe, Miyakonojo, Japan (113)

“Not smoking and not drinking,” and a diet of fried shrimp, miso soup, pickled vegetables, and bananas, washed down with plenty of milk.

Gertrude Weaver, Camden, Arkansas (116)
“Trusting in the Lord, hard work, and love everybody…Just do what you can, and if you can’t, you can’t.”

Jose Aguinelo dos Santos, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Dos Santos claims to be 126, but that’s unconfirmed. He has smoked a pack of cigarettes every day for 50 years and says there’s no secret to his long life: “The truth is you just keep getting older,” he told an interviewer in 2014. “If I got to this age it’s because I’ve lived a lot, that’s all.” (Image credit: Sedesol)

Benjamin Harrison Holcomb, Carnegie, Okla. (111)
Big breakfasts and small dinners. “All his life, Daddy didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink. But he did have a huge breakfast. Just huge. Eggs, sausage. And just cornmeal mush for dinner,” Holcomb’s daughter, Leola Ford, told the Washington Times in 2000.

Leila Denmark, Athens, Georgia (114)
Denmark was the world’s oldest practicing pediatrician when she retired at the age of 103; by then she was treating the great-grandchildren of her first patients. (Her other claim to fame: co-developing the whooping cough vaccine in the 1930s.) Denmark avoided milk, fruit juice, junk food, and sweets, including her many birthday cakes because they contained sugar, which she hadn’t eaten in 70 years. She drank only water.

Tuti Yusupova, Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan
Yusupova, who died in 2015, claimed to be 134, but this is unconfirmed. “The secret to a long life is to do lots of work in the fields and to live an honest life,” she told the BBC in 2009. “Having lived through so many wars I would also tell the children of today to try and live their lives in the company of good people and to appreciate times of peace.”


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's newest volume, Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader. The 29th volume of the series is chock-full of fascinating stories, facts, and lists, and comes in both the Kindle version and paperback.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!

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jejeje at Dorothy Howe

she reminds me of George Burns aka one of the world's greatest comedians

George Burns had a 10-15 cigar a day habit and claimed that it was his cigar habit that kept him living. He would joke that if he had quit when his doctor told him to he wouldn't have lived long enough to go to his funeral. He smoked El Producto cigars because more expensive cigars are tightly packed and can go out.
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