An expert on aging has done his research first-hand, by studying centenarians — people who’ve lived to be more than 100 years old. Thomas Perls says he found plenty in this part of the country, though he can’t say why so many of us live a long time. He’d heard there’s a “belt of longevity” throughout the Midwestern region that includes Nebraska and Iowa, with a concentration of centenerians. Though he didn’t know why, he’d heard the reports and came to check it out. He says he’s compiled a half-dozen steps to recommend to anyone who wants to live to be 100.
Perls says some people have the idea that the older you get, the sicker you get, and it’s not true for those who hang around for a long time. They live most of their lives in very good health and function, and only in the very last years of their lives do they suffer age-related disabilities. “The older you get, the healthier you’ve been,” he explains. If someone suffers a lot of ailments in their sixties or seventies, he says they’re not likely to get to be 100. He says if you want to live for a hundred years, you should work to achieve the best possible health today, so you can hang onto it.
Even if you don’t make it to 100, healthy habits will let most of us reach our mid- to late 80s and be like the centenarians, suffering the problems of old age only in the very end of our lives. One thing he doesn’t recommend — the claims of anti-aging products on the market, from anti-oxidants to growth hormones.
Perls says there is “a slew of products out there” that the marketers claim will slow or reverse aging. He declared “Most of it is just nonsense,” and the researcher says he’s seen nothing to prove any of the stuff works. Some of the products are even dangerous, he warns. The unregulated potions and injections can even cause illness or cancer, and he says trying them will shorten life, not extend it.
“Smoking is really the other major no-no,” Perls says. In terms of what you should do, he puts stress management at the top of the list, and says people handle stress in many ways including their religious faith, exercise, and “carousing with their friends.” He says spending enjoyable time with friends and loved ones is a characteristic of those who’ve lived long and rewarding lives.
He’s written a book titled “Living to be 100: Lessons in Living to Your Maximum Potential at Any Age.”