How to live to 100

Worldwide, life expectancy is higher than ever before. In fact, a United Nations report shows that 20% of the population will be aged 65 years and older by 2050 — a figure which is likely to continue rising.

But although the odds are increasingly in our favor, we continue to turn to centenarians for advice. Based on analyzing 100 interviews with people aged 100 or above, here are their secrets for a long, happy and healthy life.

Top 10 things centenarians say helped them live to 100

1Ignore traditional dietary advice29%
2Eat a healthy diet25%
3Stay active22%
4Keep a positive attitude18%
5Drink alcohol regularly 16%
6Abstain from alcohol/smoking12%
7Maintain meaningful relationships10%
8Get a good night’s sleep9%
9Be nice to others9%
10Have faith9%
David J. Demko, PhD

Our genetic makeup and lifestyle habits influence longevity, but the impact each element plays is a hotly-debated topic. The current ratio suggests that genetic risk factors control 25% and lifestyle risk factors control 75%, but this ratio fluctuates in line with new research on factors reported to reduce risks to morbidity and mortality. Regardless of the precise weighting of this ratio, it’s clear that a long life boils down to far more than simply smart genes and dumb luck.

David J. Demko, PhD
Clinical Gerontologist

Full longevity advice details

Age Name Location Longevity secrets Stay single Enjoy hobbies and interests Maintain meaningful relationships Stay active Drink alcohol regularly Eat a healthy diet Ignore traditional dietary advice Be nice to others Keep a positive attitude Have faith Smoke Abstain from alcohol/smoking Get a good night’s sleep
127 Leandra Becerra Lumbreras Mexico Chocolate, avoiding marriage, sleeping for days on end Tick Tick Tick
122 Jeanne Louise Calment France Olive oil, chocolate, wine, cigarettes Tick Tick Tick Tick
119 Sarah Knauss Pennsylvania No stress, not worrying about age Tick
117 Emma Morano Italy 3 eggs a day (2 of them raw), kicking husband out and never marrying again Tick Tick
117 Violet Brown Jamaica Faith, healthy diet with coconut sauce, fish and mutton Tick Tick
117 Nabi Tajima Japan Delicious food, sleeping well Tick Tick
117 Chiyo Miyako Japan Delicious food including sushi and eels Tick
117 Misao Okawa Japan Sushi, ramen noodles, sleeping for 8 hours, relaxing Tick Tick Tick
116 Gertrude Weaver Arkansas Kindness, positive attitude, sleep, no drinking or smoking Tick Tick Tick Tick
116 Jiroemon Kimura Japan Eating lightly Tick
116 Susannah Mushatt Jones New York Supportive extended family Tick
116 Besse Cooper Tennessee Staying out of others’ business, no junk food Tick Tick
115 Boxin Huang China Vegetables with every meal (including breakfast) Tick
115 Tava Colo France Respecting others Tick
115 Evangelia Karnava Greece Coca-Cola Tick
115 Dina Manfredini Iowa Making bread and pasta Tick
115 Maria Giuseppa Robucci Italy No alcohol, no smoking, eating lightly and healthily Tick Tick
115 Kane Tanaka Japan Family, sleep, hope Tick Tick Tick
115 Bernice Madigan Massachusets No children, no stress, breakfast of honey, Eggos, banana and 4 Pop’ems glazed doughnut holes Tick Tick Tick
115 Jeralean Talley Michigan "Do unto others as you desire them to do unto you", faith in God, eating plenty of pigs’ feet Tick Tick Tick
115 Ana Maria Vela Rubio Spain Positive attitude, compassion for others Tick Tick
114 Adelina Domingues California Religion, no makeup, no drinking or smoking Tick Tick
114 Eudoxi Baboul French Guiana Eating lots of couac (cassava-based semolina) Tick
114 Neva Morris Iowa Working hard, eating hearty, healthy meals prepared from farm produce Tick Tick
114 Yukichi Chuganji Japan Drinking milk every day, avoiding alcohol Tick Tick
113 Mariya Kononovich Belarus Being kind to others, loving everyone, no enemies Tick
113 Maggie Kidd Georgia Faith in God Tick
113 Goldie Michelson Massachusetts Morning walks, chocolate, never smoking or drinking Tick Tick Tick
113 Adele Dunlap New Jersey Oatmeal Tick
113 Francisco Nunez Olivera Spain Working hard, eating home-grown vegetables, daily glass of red wine Tick Tick Tick
113 Bessie Camm United Kingdom Hard work, lovely people, good food Tick Tick Tick
112 Peg Vivian Australia Never smoking, rarely drinking, walking a lot Tick Tick
112 Ellen Gibb Canada Good genes, no drinking or smoking, plenty of exercise and butter Tick Tick Tick
112 Isabel Castaño Restrepo Florida Going with the flow Tick
112 Jeanne Bot France Never marrying or having children Tick
112 Gustav Gerneth Germany No dieting, no sports, drinking only on special occasions Tick Tick
112 Masazo Nonaka Japan Soaking in hot springs, eating sweets Tick
112 Yasutaro Kode Japan Taking it easy Tick
112 Batuli Lamichhane Nepal 30 cigarettes a day Tick
112 Salustanio Sanches-Blazquez Spain 1 banana and 6 Anacin tablets a day Tick Tick
111 Bernardo LaPallo Arizona Practicing moderation, sleeping well, keeping stress away, fresh fruits and vegetables Tick Tick Tick
111 Merle Phillips Illinois Faith in God Tick
111 Alelia Murphy New York Kindness of God Tick
111 Alexander Imich New York Healthy diet including chicken and fish, abstaining from alcohol Tick Tick
111 Richard Overton Texas 12 cigars a day, 4 glasses of whiskey in the morning, butter pecan ice cream every night Tick Tick Tick
111 Grace Katherine Jones United Kingdom A little drop of whiskey every night Tick
110 Marguerite Robertson Canada Eating well, avoiding milk, being loved Tick Tick Tick
110 Agnes Fenton New Jersey 3 bottles of Miller High Life and a glass of whiskey daily Tick
109 Alfred Date Australia Staying out of trouble, waking up every morning Tick
109 Ruth Benjamin Illinois 4 strips of bacon every morning, no smoking, no drinking, 43-year marriage Tick Tick Tick
109 Mohammed Mohyeddin Iran Regular exercise, chewing food properly Tick
109 Jessie Gallan United Kingdom Exercise, daily bowl of porridge, staying away from men Tick Tick Tick
108 Alice Herz-Sommer Czech Republic Laughter, optimism Tick
108 Downing Jett Kay Maryland Spending time with family and friends, participating in local church and community Tick Tick
108 Duranord Veillard New York 5-7 pushups a day, drinking tea, eating oatmeal, fish and vegetables Tick Tick
108 Eric Gottfrid Andersson Sweden Taking care of your body, eating good food, not smoking Tick Tick Tick
108 John Mansfield United Kingdom Full English breakfast with fried eggs and sausages every day Tick
107 Jo Sunderland Minnesota Don’t worry, be happy Tick
106 Irene Cole Texas Positive lifestyle, staying single, abstaining from smoking and alcohol Tick Tick Tick
105 Francis Smith Florida Keeping active, moving to Florida Tick
105 Marian Cannon Schlesinger Massachusetts Coffee in the morning, liquor in the evening Tick Tick
105 Lucille Boston Lewis Tennessee Faith, family, working hard, loving others Tick Tick Tick Tick
105 Pearl Cantrell Texas Bacon with every meal Tick
105 Jack Reynolds United Kingdom Whiskey with tea in the morning, whiskey with lemonade at night Tick
104 Theresa Rowley Michigan Drinking a Diet Coke every day Tick
104 Mildred Bowers South Carolina Beer Tick
104 Charlotte Henderson Texas Practicing moderation, eating and sleeping well, not overdrinking or overeating, exercising regularly Tick Tick Tick
104 Elizabeth Sullivan Texas 3 cans of Dr Pepper a day Tick
104 Pauline Dunhill United Kingdom Gin and tonic every evening Tick
103 Samuel Henry Ball Florida Good marriage, whiskey Tick Tick
103 Vincenzo Baratta Italy Eating once a day, lots of women Tick Tick
103 Imogen Young Maryland Peanut butter M&Ms, bacon, eggs, ice cream Tick
103 Ruth Coben New York Exercise, celebrate every day Tick Tick
103 Mary Todisco New York Low-sugar diet, keeping busy, staying positive, not taking life too seriously Tick Tick Tick
103 George Boggess Washington, DC Walking Tick
102 Elsa Bailey Colorado Sunshine, eating healthily Tick
102 Dorothy Custer Idaho Daily exercise Tick
102 Edris Mathiesen Indiana Crossword puzzles, reading, playing cards Tick
102 Eunice Modlin Indiana 2 dark chocolates a day, naps Tick Tick
101 Paul Marcus Colorado Genes, luck, unrestricted diet Tick
101 Antonio Ramirez Florida Happiness, staying calm, no anger, coffee every morning Tick Tick
101 Luigina Vigiconte Italy Optimism, politeness Tick Tick
101 Bel Kaufman New York Laughter Tick
100 Ephraim Engleman California Falling in love, getting married, having sex Tick
100 Norma Martin Florida Being optimistic Tick
100 Marie-Louise Wirth France No fruit or milk, alcohol with every meal Tick Tick
100 Gregoris Tsahas Greece Couple of glasses of red wine every day Tick
100 Art Stieglieter Illinois Coffee Tick
100 Florence Bearse Maine A good glass of wine Tick
100 Dorothy Cammon New Mexico Working hard, getting enough sleep Tick Tick
100 Emanuel Chuse New York Keeping up with daily news Tick
100 Malvina Hunt New York Vigorous exercise Tick
100 Elsie King New Zealand Keeping occupied with hobbies Tick
100 Paulina Spagnola Pennsylvania Drinking alcohol Tick
100 Christina Kislak Wahala Pennsylvania Walking a lot, fresh fruit and vegetables Tick Tick
100 Frances Prus Pennsylvania Family, faith, occasional junk food, glass of merlot Tick Tick Tick Tick
100 John Grumbine Pennsylvania Dancing Tick
100 Orville Rogers Texas Running Tick
100 Rebecca Sommerville United Kingdom Laughter, not taking things too seriously Tick
100 Doris Olive Netting United Kingdom Daily pint of Guinness Tick

Although eating healthily has a strong showing in second place, even more centenarians attributed their long lifespans to less conventional advice involving daily treats such as chocolate, bacon or sugary drinks.

Elizabeth Sullivan, 104, sums up this paradox perfectly in a conversation with her doctor:

“I saw the doctor and he said, ‘Are you careful about what you eat?’ and I said, ‘Certainly not, I drink three Dr Peppers a day,’ and he said, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s too much sugar. You will die if you keep drinking that,’” she recounted. “But 10 years later he died and I had to change doctors. So I’m still drinking three Dr Peppers a day and people said that’s bad for me but you know, not very many people live to be 104. So I guess the sugar in the Dr Peppers have kept me alive all this time.”

Somewhat controversially, more centenarians recommended a daily tipple than abstaining from drinking alcohol entirely — seemingly claiming that a little bit of the bad stuff might do us some good after all.

Other popular advice included staying active, keeping a positive attitude, and maintaining relationships with family and friends. Similarly, getting enough sleep, being nice to others, and having religious faith were also acknowledged as important parts of living well into old age.

Judging from the advice collated, striking a happy balance seems to be key to a long and healthy life. None of the centenarians featured in the research recommended crash diets or complete lifestyle overhauls. Instead, their tips were tailored to their own lifestyles and practiced consistently. That could mean indulging in a daily glass of wine, eating plenty of vegetables, or simply basking in the warmth of a loving network of family and friends.