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Centenarians Reveal Keys To Long Life

The secret to a long life is a combination of spirituality, hard work, and clean living, according to new survey of those who may know best — centenarians.

Researchers asked 100 Americans aged 99 or older about the secret to their longevity, and nearly a quarter credited their faith and spiritual care (23 percent) rather than good genes or medical care. Other contributing factors to longevity were:

  • Working hard (12 percent)
  • A healthy diet (9 percent)
  • "Living a clean, good life" (9 percent)
  • Not smoking (8 percent)
  • Care and love from their family (8 percent)

    Few Regrets

    If they had it to do all over again, few said they would have done things differently over the past 100 years. Nearly three out of five said there was nothing — or they didn't know of anything — that they would have done more of in their lives; 78 percent said there was nothing they would have done less of in the past.

    But when pressed to name any regrets, some said they wished they had traveled more (13 percent), worked less (9 percent) or spent more time with their families (6 percent).

    Looking back, nearly a quarter of the centenarians (24 percent) named their 30s as the best time of their lives, followed by their 20s (15 percent). But more than one in 10 (11 percent) said that they are happiest today and rated their 11th decade as the best time in their lives.

    Preparing For The Future

    More than half of those surveyed said they had thought about their own death, but only 4 percent said they feared it. Nearly two-thirds said they believed in life after death.

    In addition, more than two-thirds said they knew what a living will was, and 61 percent had prepared one. A living will is a legal document that states in advance a person's desires to receive, or to withhold, life-support procedures and communicates this information when he or she is unable to.

    The telephone survey was conducted among 66 females and 34 males who were 99 years or older, with two-thirds between the ages of 100 and 104, by Strategic Research Partners, LLC, on behalf of Evercare, a health and well-being services company for the elderly and chronically ill.

    SOURCES: Evercare "100 at 100" survey 2006, conducted by Strategic Research Partners, LLC. News release, Evercare.

    By Jennifer Warner
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D.
    © 2006, WebMD Inc. All rights reserved