Centenarian Secrets for a Life Well-Lived

Mary Jane - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Entered on February 9, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe I have to tell you what was told to me. The advice came in bits and pieces, each tidbit from someone more than 100 years old.

I met nearly 150 centenarians in the months leading up to Oklahoma’s 100th birthday celebration in 2007. I traveled the backroads to find folks born in or before 1907 – the oldest people in one of our youngest states. Though their circumstances differ, their attitudes are remarkably similar. They are modest. Matter-of-fact. Self-effacing. Funny. And, yes, wise. Any facade they may have worn earlier in life has long since dissolved.

I believe the would want me to pass on these 12 tips for their centenarian guide to a life well-lived:

1) TAKE TURNS

Our secret to a happy marriage? He’s the boss sometimes. Sometimes he isn’t.

Bertha Nalley Adams, 101; celebrated 80th anniversary to Roy Adams, 101, July 18, 2007

2) WANT WHAT YOU HAVE

We didn’t have a whole lot, but we didn’t really want for anything either.

Ida Lewis Turner, 25-year cancer survivor

3) BE HONEST

Always tell the truth.

Rose Agnes “Sudie” Musgrove Clevenger

4) BLAME NO ONE

I’ve never had a bad day in my life. My life today, I can’t live it again so I have only myself to blame if it’s wasted. I have to live

one day at a time.

Ida Mae Woody Wilson, celebrated 100th birthday in Las Vegas

5) LAUGH AT YOURSELF

I have so many good-looking dresses, but I can’t wear them. It’s just hell to put on pantyhose!

Greta Cottrell Woodson Storey Saye Mill Heslet; divorced once, widowed four times.

6) PRIORITIZE

I’ve saved things all my life. It’s hard for me to realize that I don’t need any of this stuff. It’s real friends that truly matter.

Kristine Klostermyer Brown, 110; Oklahoma’s oldest resident

7) TAKE ACTION

I killed “I can’t,” therefore YOU can.

You can do it. You can do anything.

Lillie Bell Curry Blunt

8) BE OPTIMISTIC

Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy side. Make your own fun.

Marian Harrison Weimer

9 ENJOY

Eat dessert first.

Katherine Kubicheck Timlin

10 DON’T PROCRASTINATE

If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have fixed up my house.

Ima Care Maloney Wilson

11) NO REGRETS

I smoked and drank and did everything. Did all the vices. I’d probably do the same thing over.

Joseph Allen Niles

12) LIVE PURPOSEFULLY

I never did think about how long I was going to live. I just thought about HOW to live.

Sarah Harmon Armstrong

These centenarians helped shape the American frontier itself and, in turn, were shaped by it. Several lived in three centuries.

Did they survive because they are clever? Or did they become clever as they survived?

I’m not sure. Some were wealthy. Some had nothing. Some were frail, some glowed with health. I do know that of the 144 centenarians I visited, every single one felt privileged to have witnessed the changes of the last century. Each was hopeful about the future. Even those in pain were not bitter about life or fearful of leaving this earth.

Which makes me think their secrets for a life well-lived are worth believing.