You, Too, Could Live to 100 -- Or at Least 80
Aug. 3, 2000 -- He's 103 years old, but just try to catch Henry Maasen in his room. "I can't just stay here waiting for people to visit me," he tells WebMD. "Been out playing pool."
Maasen -- who has outlived his wife, three siblings, countless friends, and one daughter -- is one of a small minority of men who have lived to the ripe age of 100 or beyond. "Only 15% of centenarians are men," says Margery Hutter Silver, EdD, co-author of Living to 100: Lessons in Living to Your Maximum Potential at Any Age.
Since 1995, she and Thomas J. Perls, MD, MPH, have interviewed more than 200 men and women who, like Maasen, have made it past 100. They also have tracked down many in their 90s who are heading in that direction. The results of their two studies -- the New England Centenarian Study and the Centenarian Sibling Pair Study -- form the basis of their best-selling book. The researchers are based at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
In their book, they shed light on the secrets to longevity. Could we all live to 100, like Britain's Queen Mum, who celebrates her centennial birthday on Friday?
Visiting with Maasen, a retired Iowa wheat farmer, it certainly seems possible. His health and eyesight are still pretty good, although his hearing is a small problem. He lives in a retirement home, "not a nursing home," he quickly asserts. He still drives his own car -- as he has since 1920 -- but now to visit younger, sicker friends in nearby nursing homes. He reads to them. He plays pool every chance he gets. And he sometimes drives to his farm, to drink coffee and visit with the folks caring for it. He doesn't stay long, he says. "I don't want to be a burden."
The keys to longevity? "Clean living helps," Maasen tells WebMD. "And stay active. Keep your mind active." As for exercise: "I used to walk miles; now I walk blocks." His breakfast, all these years? "One slice of toast, one glass of juice, 2 percent milk, and one egg a week ... and I like a little honey on my toast." For dinner: "I never really liked the taste of meat. Oh, I eat a little ... but I just have always preferred vegetables." During his 60-year marriage, he and his wife traveled the globe. "Don't get into fighting," he says. "It's hard on the nerves."
So if you keep the peace and live right, could you reach 100, too? That depends, the researchers say.
First, there is the issue of genetics. If you don't have longevity in your family, chances are you won't get there, says Perls. "On the other hand, I think it's very possible to be centenarian-like," he tells WebMD. Centenarians, he says, tend not to get sick until right before the end of their lives. "The vast majority of us can still do that, but probably will get to our mid to late 80s. Basically, that means 20 to 25 years beyond the age of 60. That's a lot of years.