Everyone wants to know the secret to a long life.
You’ve probably wondered why some people live past their eighties or nineties. Scientists know that leading a healthy lifestyle makes a big difference to a person’s lifespan, but asking long-lived people for their opinion also yields some interesting insights.
Although age isn’t a guarantee of wisdom, there’s no doubt that living to 100 gives someone plenty of experience in the human condition.
The wisdom of Jessie Gallan
Scottish woman Jessie Gallan was born on January 2, 1906. Jessie came from a modest home, sharing a two-bedroomed cottage with her brother and five sisters. She left home as a teenager, and started working in a farmhouse kitchen.
Jessie then continued to work in service roles. One of her most memorable jobs entailed worked at a hotel that hosted the Queen and the Queen Mother. Towards the end of her working life, she was a waitress. In June 2013, she became Scotland’s oldest woman.
Jessie took pride in working hard her entire life, and “seldom” took any vacations. She said she was lucky enough to have had “good jobs,” working with “very nice people.”
So, how did Jessie make it to 109?
In a nutshell, Jessie advised that the best way to a long life was to eat a warm bowl of porridge every morning and “avoid men.” She went on to say that they are “more trouble than they’re worth,” and that she never married. She also highlighted the importance of staying active, saying that got “plenty of exercise.”
Jessie also shows us that you can enjoy a good quality of life well into your senior years. She still attended church regularly and took part in group activities, according to staff at her care home in Aberdeen. Even though she was well over 100, she still had “all her wits about her.”
What do other seniors say?
In 2014, Holiday Retirement conducted a survey with 68 centenarians, ranging in age from 100 to 105. Unsurprisingly, since women tend to outlive men, the majority (80%) were female. All had been married.
In their report, titled “100 Years Of Wisdom: The Perspective Of Centenarians,” Holiday Retirement highlighted some fascinating tips and advice from older people on how to lead a longer life.
Here are some notable takeaways:
Every centenarian is different. It appears that no particular lifestyle works for everyone. For example, while one participant claimed that “drinking all the good whiskey they could get” and “working like the devil” had helped them live a long life, another said they “never drank or smoked.”
Exercise is important. Staying active was a commonly cited factor in determining longevity. Hard work, healthy eating, faith, and spending time with family and friends were also mentioned, but exercise came out ahead.
When it comes to happiness, spending time with family counts most. Although the participants thought that physical activity was key to living to 100, it wasn’t their primary source of happiness. The vast majority said that time with relatives had given them the most joy over the years.
When it came to regrets, just 7% said that they had none. Over one-third (34%) said that, given the chance, they would have spent more time with the people they loved. This makes sense, given that family time was cited as a major source of happiness.
Around 1 in 6 (16%) said they wish they’d traveled more, and a few (2-3%) wished they had worked less, changed careers, spent more time on education, and spent more time growing hobbies and interests. Twenty-nine per cent said they were unsure whether they had regrets, or what these regrets might be.
Was Jessie right?
The Holiday Retirement survey emphasized family as a source of joy for most people, but clearly this doesn’t always have to take the form of a traditional nuclear family – Jessie did not marry, and had no children. [It’s also worth noting that, because all the women in the survey had been married, the researchers couldn’t compare the experiences of married and unmarried women.]
However, like many centenarians in the survey, Jessie agreed that staying active was a good idea. She didn’t elaborate on her diet beyond mentioning her habit of eating porridge, but her healthy breakfasts suggest that she too many have understood the importance of good nutrition.
Jessie passed away in 2015, but her words still provoke thought and discussion online. Whether or not you decide to marry or stay single, the best advice is to leave any relationship that causes you heartache, whether or not you live to a ripe old age.