I read an article recently about a local woman who had turned 103 and was still living independantly, still robust and healthy, not taking any medications whatsoever, doing her own shopping, house cleaning, cooking, etc.

I thought “Wow. That’s cool.” The usual picture we have of centenarians is of shrivelled up old things in nursing home beds being tended by a bevy of care workers. In fact, however, 15% of people over 100 are still living independantly in their own homes. About 25% of centenarians are completely free of any significant cognitive disorders and most are usually healthy – healthier than people in their 80s and 90s.

Studies have found that the things most people who make it past 100 (and 80% of them are women) have in common are:

• Good genes – they have parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts who’ve lived long healthy lives
• Emotional resilience—ability to adapt to life’s events
• Resistance to stress—excellent coping skills
• Self-sufficiency
• Intellectual activity
• Good sense of humor, including about themselves
• Spirituality
• Strong connections with other people
• Low blood pressure
• Appreciation of simple pleasures and experiences
• Zest for life
• No smoking or heavy drinking
• Many play musical instruments

They also have in common a simple, sensible diet along the lines of a Mediterranean diet with an emphasis on plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds and potatoes); olive oil as the main fat source; only natural sugars; small amounts or no animal products; and no alcohol except one or two glasses of wine per day with meals.

There are about half a million centenarians living in the world today. The US has about 75,000 of them. Interestingly, while there are more 110+ year-old-people living in the US than any other country in the world, the US has one of the worst longevity ratings overall. France, Spain, Italy and Canada lead both in overall longevity and in having a significant amount of citizens that live to be 100 or more.

On one hand, I think it would be so interesting to see how the world unfolds over decades and decades. And, if I’m still relatively spry, getting to 100 or more could be good.

On the other hand, I don’t know if I could stand outliving my child and all my other relatives and friends. It’s hard enough making friends and/or finding people you have things in common with at my current age. I can’t imagine who you could relate to at 104 and/or who’d want to hang out with you.

Also, I’m not sure my pension and retirement savings will stretch to 40 years or more.

Even the healthy, active centenarians interviewed say they feel they’ve lived long enough and hope to die peacefully in their sleep — and soon.