July 24, 2024

Find your purpose and your people

Dr. Gladys McGarey, 102, says she’s always had a purpose and something to live for. “You don’t find that if you’re not looking for it,” she says.

In her book, “The Well-Lived Life: A 102-Year-Old Doctor’s Six Secrets to Health and Happiness at Every Age,” purpose is a key theme. Her passion lies in what she calls “living medicine,” which focuses on “looking at disease and pain as teachers.” By understanding what ailments are trying to tell us, we are able to find the best way to deal with them, she says.

While you’re searching for your own “why,” you often find your community, McGarey tells CNBC Make It: “There are people who come and go in your lives, but you choose the ones who really help to support you.”

An 85-year Harvard study found that the key to longevity and happiness is “social fitness,” meaning objectively viewing how we pour into our relationships, and improving any imbalances to become better friends and partners.

And during hard times in your life, “just don’t get stuck. Or if you do [get stuck], start looking for the light. It’s always there,” McGarey says. “You just have to keep looking for it.”

Do some work to keep your mind engaged

“I became a sacristan and didn’t retire from that until I was 99,” Margaret Stretton, told The Guardian.

Though she credits her 100 years to pure luck, Stretton’s many interests led her to several roles that motivated her to keep working in some capacity, especially fundraising.

Even at age 100, her work hasn’t stopped; she’s spent the past two years making preserves and marmalade for a charity in her community.

Continuing to engage in some work seems to be great for the brain when you’re older. Working for 25 hours or less each week was associated with improved cognitive function in those aged 40 and up, according to a study conducted by researchers for the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.

Surround yourself with family and friends

Larry Janisse stays young at 98 by finding the humor in everything. When asked about his secret for longevity by CNBC Make It, he jokingly says: “You got to have good booze and hot women, and that takes care of it.”

Janisse, who often spends his time playing golf with friends and going out to meet new people, says his family and community keep him going.

As a father of six boys and five girls, he finds the most joy in being surrounded by loved ones, especially during annual family reunions. And when it comes to stress: “If it’s something that I don’t know what to do, I call my kids and talk to them to see what they think.”

Janisse ended the interview with another joke, and said, “That’s the other thing, you kind of have to laugh in your life.”

Larry Janisse, 98, spends a lot of time playing golf with friends and meeting new people.

Courtesy of Larry Janisse

View life through a lens of positivity

Having a positive outlook is what Roslyn Menaker, 103, highlights as important for longevity, according to The Guardian. She finds joy in her daily walks and her stylish wardrobe, she told the publication.

“I love to look at beautiful clothes and eat out,” she said. “I have an amazing caregiver. She gives me manicures and pedicures, and colors my hair.”

Walk as often as you can

Walking is Malcom Idelson’s number one tip for longevity, and it’s an exercise he’s done for years.

“I try to walk every day, without excuse,” says Idelson, who’s 94. “I look forward to it. I’m often a little down and I say, ‘Let me get out and walk,’ and I feel so much better,” he says.

Research indicates that walking 10,000 steps a day for 30 minutes at a brisk pace may help you live longer and lower your risk of severe disease and death.

When Idelson was a resident and fellow at Mount Sinai Hospital, he never used an elevator, he says. “I was a walker, up the steps. [I] ran up and down. Everyone knew it. It was just in my blood.”

He also didn’t take taxis often in New York and would walk wherever he could. Just last week, Idelson walked from 73rd St. to 84th St., “I’ll be 95, and I’m doing well at the moment.”

Value your mental and physical fitness

“Keep your body in good shape and your mind in good shape,” Ruth Sweedler, 103, tells CNBC Make It. “Then you’ve got it made.”

Through five practices, she and her sister, Shirley Hodes, swear by, the two have both lived beyond the age of 100. They walk often, build connections with people, and stick to a balanced, low-fat diet.

Staying positive is just as important: “I’m interested in everything, and I’m in the here and now,” says Sweedler. “I don’t look back; I look forward.”

Ruth Sweedler with family in 2019

Photo by Ester Bloom