Raymond McCrea Jones/The New York Times
Hazel Miller,100, of Charlotte, N.C., drives the 25 miles to Concord every Monday for lessons in painting china porcelain. She is also an avid dancer.
The New York Times, October 19, 2010, by Jane E. Brody and Tara Parker-Pope —
“I think it’s great to live to be 100,” says Hazel Miller. “There’s no secret about it. You just don’t die…, The best part of being 100 is that you lived to be 100. If you can enjoy it, it’s an extra good thing.”
Ms. Miller also explains that she took up line dancing because of a lack of male dancing partners.
Esther Tuttle, 99, is nearing the end of the 10th decade of a remarkably productive and adventurous life. If all continues to go as well as it has to date, next July 1 she will join the rapidly growing clan of centenarians, whose numbers in the United States have increased to 96,548 in 2009 from 38,300 in 1990, according to the Census Bureau.
At age 92, Mrs. Tuttle (best known as Faity, her childhood nickname) wrote a memoir with the prescient title “No Rocking Chair for Me” (iUniverse) displaying an acute memory of events, names, dates and places that she retains as she approaches 100.
At 30 years her junior, I couldn’t begin to recall the kinds of details that remain fresh in her still very active mind. I can only hope, should I live that long, to be as vibrant and physically fit as she is.
What, I asked, is the secret to her longevity? Is it genetics? Perhaps, but it’s hard to say. Her parents died at ages 42 and 50, leaving her an orphan at age 11, along with three siblings, one of whom did live to 96.
Genes do play a role in longevity. Dr. Nir Barzilai, a geneticist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, reports that centenarians are 20 times as likely as the average person to have a long-lived relative. But a Swedish study of identical twins separated at birth and reared apart concluded that only about 20 to 30 percent of longevity is genetically determined. Lifestyle seems to be the more dominant factor.
As Mrs. Tuttle said in clarion tones that belie her advanced age: “I am blessed and I’ve worked on it. You’ve got to work, be cheerful and look for something fun to do. It’s a whole attitude.
“If you respect what the doctors tell you to do, you can live a long life, but you have to do it. You can’t ignore the advice.”
Her memoir and replies to my queries revealed three critical attributes that might be dubbed longevity’s version of the three R’s: resolution, resourcefulness and resilience. Throughout her long life, she’s taken hardships in stride, traipsed blithely over obstacles and converted many into building blocks. And she has adhered to a regimen of a careful diet, hard work, regular exercise and a very long list of community service, all while raising three children.
Like many if not most other centenarians, according to the findings of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University, Mrs. Tuttle is an extrovert who has many friends, a healthy dose of self-esteem and strong ties to family and community. She continues to enjoy her youthful passions for the theater and opera.
A study of centenarians in Sardinia found that they tend to be physically active, have extensive social networks and maintain strong ties with family and friends. They are also less likely to be depressed than the average 60-year-old.
Do optimists live longer than pessimists? Yes, studies indicate. Dr. Hilary A. Tindle of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, found that among 97,000 women followed for eight years, those deemed optimistic were significantly less likely to die from heart disease and all causes than were pessimistic women, whom she described as “cynically hostile.”
The optimists were also less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, suggesting they take better care of their health. Indeed, the pessimists were more likely to be overweight, smoke cigarettes and avoid exercise, indicating, Dr. Tindle says, that negative thinkers make poorer lifestyle choices than positive thinkers.
A Walking Example
Faity Tuttle could serve as a model for that study’s findings. Each morning, she does an hour of yoga and other floor exercises, then dresses and goes out on the street or to the top of her Manhattan apartment building for a half-hour walk before breakfast. Her usual breakfast: orange juice, oatmeal, a banana and black coffee. Then she works at her desk, mostly corresponding with her 11 grandchildren, 21 great grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, now 3. “So many birthdays — one or two a month,” she said.
Lunch may be soup or leftover meat, a “very thin” slice of rye toast, with tea and Jell-O or fruit for dessert. The afternoon includes an hour’s nap and another walk, often combined with grocery shopping.
At 6:30 every evening, she enjoys a cocktail before a home-cooked dinner of perhaps lamb, pork chops, roast chicken or “a very good stew” she makes herself. Mrs. Tuttle, whose husband, Ben, died in 1988, lives with a dear friend, Allene Hatch, 84, an artist and author affectionately known as Squeaky, with whom she shares K.P. “Most days I do the cooking, and Squeaky cleans up afterward.”
Stay-at-home evenings are spent reading or watching “a good movie” on television, she said.
Mrs. Tuttle recently gave up a lifelong passion for horseback riding, but she still drives, though not on public roads, only on a 300-acre farm in upstate New York that the Tuttles had the wisdom to acquire when land was cheap. Her children built homes on the property and now live there in retirement, providing Mrs. Tuttle with nearby loving company all summer and during the spring and fall weekends she spends at the farm.
The Benefits of Coping
As good as her health is (no high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes), it is not perfect. She describes herself as “a bionic woman from the waist up,” with an artificial breast to replace the cancerous one removed 20 years ago, a heart pacemaker installed about a decade ago, a hearing aid and contact lenses.
Although she has spurned dairy foods for most of her life (she still follows the advice of a predecessor of Dr. Robert Atkins who told her to avoid dairy and follow a diet low in carbohydrates and rich in meats and fats), she was only recently found to have osteoporosis, for which she now takes a monthly pill along with daily supplements of calcium and vitamins C and D.
Nor has she always enjoyed an affluent lifestyle. Though born into an accomplished, well-to-do family, her parents’ early death (the children were taken in by an aunt with limited means) and her decision to pursue an acting career led to a hardscrabble existence that persisted through the early years of her marriage and life on a farm with three small children and no electricity and makeshift indoor plumbing. According to one study, survivors of traumatic life events learn to cope better with stress and poverty and are more likely to live to 100.
In lieu of trauma, there are many measures one can take to facilitate a long, wholesome and productive life. Why live to 100 if those last years will be marred by physical and emotional misery?
Edward L. Glaeser is an economics professor at Harvard.
The New York Times — Last week, I began an examination of the remarkable health of New York City by discussing the two-centuries-old fight against urban disease. The vast urban investment in clean water and street cleaning may explain why New York City became a lot healthier, but it doesn’t explain why life expectancy is now 1.5 years higher in New York than in the nation as a whole. Perhaps it isn’t surprising that New York is no sicker than the rest of the country, but why should it be healthier?
Over the past century, the mortality gaps between New York and the nation have converged, widened and converged again. The life expectancy for a boy born in 1901 was about seven years less in New York than elsewhere in the United States, but by the end of the Great Depression, New York had achieved health parity with the nation. In 1940, life expectancy at birth was 62.5 years for a white male in New York and 62.1 years for a white man in the country as a whole. The gap for white women between city and country was even smaller. The increasing health of New Yorkers over this period came from a massive reduction in deaths from respiratory tuberculosis, nephritis and influenza and pneumonia.
Then between 1940 and 1990, the health gap between New York and the nation widened again. By 1990, life expectancy at birth was 75.4 years in the United States but only 72.4 years in New York. The AIDS epidemic and rising homicides are two particularly visible explanations for the city’s deteriorating health, but the difference in death rates also reflected higher death rates from heart disease in New York. These gaps may reflect unhealthy urban lifestyles or the stress of New York City during those years.
But since 1990, the life expectancy gaps first narrowed, and by the end of the 1990s, New York managed to have a higher life expectancy than the United States did as a whole.
Wealthier and better-educated people tend to be healthier, but these factors can’t explain the health of New York City. The average household in New York City, as opposed to the average person working in Manhattan, earns less than the national average. Yes, there are more college graduates in New York per 100,000 residents than anywhere else in the country, but there are also more high school dropouts. These factors can’t explain the gap.
It is easiest to understand why New York is less deadly for younger adults. About 81 of every 100,000 New Yorkers aged 25 to 34 died in 2006, as opposed 106 out of every 100,000 in the nation. Accidents and suicides are the two leading causes of death for these younger people. The suicide rate in New York City among this younger group is substantially less than the rate in the nation as a whole. Ten years ago, David Cutler, Karen Norberg and I studied youth suicides. We noted the tendency of suicide rates to be highest in low-density areas, which may be explained by the strong relationship between suicide and gun ownership, as measured by hunting licenses per capita.
The gap in accidents between city and country is even larger. New Yorkers between 25 and 34 are more than 75 percent less likely to die in a motor vehicle accident than their counterparts nationwide. Driving drunk is far more deadly than taking the bus while tipsy.
But the bulk of the mortality difference between New York and the nation occurs among older cohorts, and here the situation is far murkier. The death rates in the nation are 5.5 percent higher for 55-to-64-year-olds than in New York, 17 percent higher for 65-to-74-year-olds and more than 24 percent higher for 75-to-84-year-olds. There is no single smoking gun for these groups. Deaths from cancer are lower for these groups, but deaths from heart disease are not.
Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-smoking policies play a role, but New York became healthier than the nation during the Giuliani years. Perhaps walking around a city makes New Yorkers healthier, but then why isn’t heart disease rarer in New York? I’d like to think that the robust nature of life in a big city is keeping people alive, but I suspect that selection may play a role. If really sick people are more likely to leave the city, this could then create an illusory appearance of Big Apple healthiness.
The health of New York City’s older cohorts remains something of a mystery, but there is no doubt that the city is no longer a place marked by death and disease. Not only are big cities places of remarkable economic productivity and cultural vitality, but they are also healthy places to live.
The New York Times, October 19, 2010, by Tara Parker-Pope — Many people view retirement as a time to stop working. But new research shows that people who take on full- or part-time jobs after retirement have better health.
The finding is based on data collected from 12,189 men and women over a 6-year period. The participants, who were from ages 51 to 61 at the start of the study, answered questions about their employment history, experiences after retirement and their physical and mental health.
Researchers from the University of Maryland found that men and women who kept working after retirement had fewer major diseases or disabilities than those who quit work, according to the study published this month in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Retirees benefited whether the work was a full- or part-time job, self-employment or temporary.
Doctors have long known that staying active during the older years is associated with better health. But the question is whether working keeps older people healthy, or whether the people who continue working are able to do so because they were healthier to start with. But the new study controlled for health before retirement and found that post-retirement work had a distinct effect on health. Notably, the hours a person worked didn’t matter, showing that both part-time and full-time employment are beneficial after retirement.
While working after retirement is good for you, the data also suggest that retirees shouldn’t take on just any job. Among those who kept working, the retirees who found work related to their previous careers had the best mental health. The study authors speculated that working outside a person’s main area of expertise might lead to more stress, explaining the lower mental health for people who worked outside their main career field. Switching careers after retirement may also be a sign that the person had to find some form of work to cope with financial problems,
Other studies have also supported the idea that working after retirement is good for you. A long-term study of 1,000 men and women born in 1920 suggested that working after retirement was associated with living longer. The participants joined the study at age 70 and were tracked for 14 years by geriatrics researchers from the Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.
After controlling for individuals’ health at the beginning of the study, the researchers found that whether a person was still alive after 12 years was strongly associated with whether they had been actively working or were fully retired. Among the 1,000 people studied, those who continued to work at age 70 and beyond were 2.5 times as likely to be alive at age 82 as those who had retired and were not working at the beginning of the study.
Another study showed that losing a job at an older age can be devastating to health. Yale researchers followed 4,220 workers, ages 51 to 61, for 6 years. During the study period, 457 workers lost their jobs. Being laid off close to retirement increased the risk for stroke by three times, according to the study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.
By RICHARD JACKSON, NEIL HOWE, and KEISUKE NAKASHIMA
Published: The New York Times, October 13, 2010
Global aging is no longer a distant challenge looming over the horizon.
The unchecked growth in pension expenditures in some European countries is a major factor in the debt crisis that shook the euro zone this year.
In the United States, first-wave baby boomers will become eligible for full Social Security and Medicare benefits next year, initiating a two-decade cost spiral in which government benefit spending is projected to double as a share of G.D.P.
In China, where the rising old-age dependency burden still largely falls on families, the onrushing age wave is giving rise to the “4-2-1 problem” — one child caring for two parents and four grandparents.
The demographic transformation now sweeping the world promises to affect everything from business psychology and workforce productivity to the direction of global capital flows.
Perhaps most fatefully, it could throw into question the ability of societies to provide a decent standard of living for the old without imposing a crushing burden on the young.
Which countries are most prepared to meet the challenge? And which countries are least prepared?
The Global Aging Preparedness (GAP) Index, of which we are the authors and which is being released this week by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, provides a quantitative assessment of the progress that countries worldwide are making in preparing for global aging, and particularly the old-age dependency dimension of the challenge.
The GAP Index consists of two separate subindices — fiscal sustainability index and income adequacy. It covers 20 countries, developed and emerging.
The index has good news and bad news. The bad is that very few countries score well on both sustainability and adequacy.
Three of the seven highest-ranking countries on the fiscal sustainability index (Mexico, China and Russia) are among the seven lowest-ranking countries on the income adequacy index. Four of the seven highest-ranking countries on the income adequacy index (the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany and Britain) are among the seven lowest-ranking countries on the fiscal sustainability index.
Two countries — France and Italy — score near the bottom of both indices. Both have legislated large prospective cuts in the generosity of their public pension systems, threatening to erode the living standard of the old. Yet despite the cuts, the systems remain so costly that they will impose a large and rising burden on the young.
The good news is that there are exceptions. Australia, which combines a low-cost, means-tested floor of public old-age poverty protection with a large, mandatory, and fully funded private pension system, scores in the top half of both indices. So does Chile, which has a similar mix of retirement policies.
Several other countries are clearly moving in the right direction.
Like France and Italy, Germany and Sweden have scheduled deep reductions in the future generosity of their public pension systems.
But unlike France and Italy, they are on track to fill in the resulting gap in elderly income by increasing funded pension savings and extending work lives.
Although their fiscal burdens remain high, they have been cut well beneath what they would otherwise be without undermining adequacy.
This contrast points to a crucial lesson. Most of the world’s developed economies will have to make large reductions in state retirement provision to stave off a fiscal Armageddon. So too will a few major developing economies, notably Brazil and South Korea.
But unless reform also ensures income adequacy for the old, the reductions are unlikely to be politically sustainable.
Saving more and working longer are a crucial part of any overall reform strategy because they provide the best means — indeed, the only means — to shore up the living standard of the old without imposing a new tax or family burden on the young.
With much of the world still reeling from the global economic crisis that began in 2008, many policy leaders may conclude that now is not the right time to address the long-term challenge of global aging. This would be a mistake.
In fact, the economic crisis has made timely action even more urgent. It has drastically reduced the fiscal resources that most countries have to accommodate rising old-age benefit costs, and at the same time it has left many elderly people more vulnerable.
There’s also the critical issue of confidence. The public and the markets increasingly worry that governments have lost control over their fiscal future. In this sense, taking credible steps to address the long-term aging challenge may be a necessary part of ensuring near-term recovery as well.
Richard Jackson, Neil Howe and Keisuke Nakashima are, respectively, senior fellow, senior associate and fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
By NATASHA SINGER
FIRST the good news: We’re living longer, healthier lives than ever before.
We’re already so used to the idea of greater longevity, in fact, that it may seem ho-hum to learn that boys and girls born in 2008 in the United States have life expectancies of 75 and 81, respectively.
Those life spans, however, represent a bonus of about three decades, compared with Americans born in 1900, according to a report last year from the Census Bureau. And, by the way, Spain, Greece and Austria fared even better, proportionally: Life expectancies in those countries doubled over the course of the 20th century.
Now for the bad news: At this rate, we can’t afford to live so long.
And by “we,” I don’t just mean you, me and our often insufficient long-term-care insurance policies. I mean “we the people.” I mean the bureaucratic “we.”
For the first time in human history, people aged 65 and over are about to outnumber children under 5. In many countries, older people entitled to government-funded pensions, health services and long-term care will soon outnumber the work force whose taxes help finance those benefits. This demographic shift also means that the number of people living with dementia, whose treatment is estimated to cost $604 billion worldwide this year, is expected to more than triple, to 115 million, by 2050, according to a report this year by Alzheimer’s Disease International, a group representing 73 Alzheimer’s associations around the world.
No other force is as likely to shape the future of national economic health, public finances and national policies, according to a new analysis on global aging from Standard & Poor’s, as the “irreversible rate at which the population is growing older.”
How are the most developed countries handling preparations for the boom in the elderly population — and for the budget-busting expenditures that are sure to follow?
For a majority, not very well.
Unless governments enact sweeping changes to age-related public spending, sovereign debt could become unsustainable, rivaling levels seen during cataclysms like the Great Depression and World War II, according to the S.& P. report.
If the status quo continues, the report projects, the median government debt in the most advanced economies could soar to 329 percent of gross domestic product by 2050. By contrast, Britain’s debt represented only 252 percent of G.D.P. in 1946, in the aftermath of World War II, the report said.
So what is to be done?
For starters, governments should extend the retirement age, says Marko Mrsnik, the associate director of sovereign ratings in Europe for S.& P. and the lead author of the report. Another no-brainer, he says, is that governments should balance their budgets.
Alas, private citizens often don’t see the logic in curbing public benefits in order to maintain national solvency. Witness France last week, where more than one million people took to the streets to protest pension reform that would raise the minimum legal retirement age to 62 from 60.
Moreover, global aging experts say, measures like pension reform are inadequate, piecemeal responses to the giant demographic shift that is upon us.
If the cost of maintaining aging populations could lead to World War II-era levels of government debt, a solution to the crisis will require a mass-scale collaborative response akin to the Manhattan Project or the space race, says Michael W. Hodin, who is an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and researches aging issues.
Governments, industry and international agencies, he says, will have to work together to transform the very structure of society, by creating jobs and education programs for people in their 60s and 70s — the hypothetical new middle age — and by tackling diseases like Alzheimer’s whose likelihood increases as people age.
“What we need is a very fundamental and profound transformation that is proportionate to the social shifts that are upon us and that is truly innovative in the public arena, innovation that is driven by industry,” says Mr. Hodin.
Here’s one simple suggestion: Influential international organizations, government agencies, companies and academic institutions should take up aging as a cause, the way they have already done for the environment. Although the United Nations, for example, set eight “millennium development goals” — ensuring environmental sustainability, promoting gender equality, and so on — for 2015, the list did not include ensuring the sustainability and equality of aging populations.
“This is quite unacceptable that aging hasn’t been included in these goals,” says Baroness Greengross, a member of the House of Lords in Britain and chief executive of the International Longevity Centre U.K in London.
Here’s another suggestion: Governments with national health programs or other state coverage could start curbing the growth in medical spending ahead of the looming elderquake.
If countries wait to act, says Peter S. Heller, a senior adjunct professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University, they will have to scramble reactively to cut their budgets in response to burgeoning older populations, the way Greece, Ireland and Spain have done recently. At the same time, he says, politicians must also start educating citizens to understand that greater longevity may entail personal sacrifices, like increased savings and a willingness to pay higher shares of their medical and long-term care costs.
But the carrot may be a better approach than the stick, says Laura L. Carstensen, a professor of psychology at Stanford and the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. She describes her outfit as a multidisciplinary research center whose “modest aim is to change the course of human aging.”
Rather than uniformly extending the retirement age, she says, governments and the private sector could develop incentives that motivate older people to remain in the work force. Those incentives might include bonuses for people who work until they are 70, exempting employers from paying Social Security taxes for employees over retirement age, more flexible work schedules, telecommuting options, and sabbaticals for education and training.
“Maybe culture needs to change first,” says Professor Carstensen, “and policy will follow.”
FINALLY, some governments and companies may need attitude adjustments so they can view aging populations not as debt loads but as valuable wells of expertise.
“I rather dispute your calling it a problem,” said Lady Greengross when I called to ask her how governments could better handle global aging. “It’s a celebration.”
As one example of how to embrace aging populations, she cites an equality act, recently passed by British legislators, that prohibits discrimination against older people (among others) seeking goods and services like car rentals or mortgages. Separately, she says, Britain next year will eliminate its default retirement age of 65, allowing people to remain in the work force longer.
“In the long run, I’d like to see age irrelevance,” Lady Greengross says, “where people aren’t just labeled by their birthdays.”
The New York Times, by Sarah Arnquist — The older people become, the younger they feel and the more likely they are to see “old age” as a time occurring later in life, according to a national survey on aging released on Monday.
“There’s a saying that you’re never too old to feel young, and boy, have older Americans today taken that one to heart,” said Paul Taylor, executive vice president with the Pew Research Center and the survey’s principal author. He said this is the broadest survey the nonpartisan research center has ever done to gauge Americans’ views on aging.
Currently, about 40 million Americans, or one in eight, are 65 and older. By 2050, one in five American will be in that age group. The center surveyed about 3,000 adults 18 and older via land and cellular telephone lines in February and March of this year.
The survey found not just a gap between actual age and the age people say they feel, but also that the gap between reality and perception increases with age.
Most adults over age 50 feel at least 10 years younger than their actual age, the survey found. One-third of those between 65 and 74 said they felt 10 to 19 years younger, and one-sixth of people 75 and older said they felt 20 years younger.
On average, survey respondents said old age begins at 68. But few people over 65 agreed; they said old age begins at 75.
Respondents under 30 said 60 marks the beginning of old age.
“Old age is always a bit older than you are,” said Jeffrey Love, research director at AARP.
The researchers also asked young adults what they expect aging to be like and older Americans how it actually is. Younger people tend to think growing old will be worse than the elderly report, the survey team found.
Older adults said they had experienced the negative aspects of aging — including illness, loneliness and financial difficulty — far less often than younger people anticipated. But older participants also said they found less time for family and leisure activities than younger adults expected they would when they reach old age.
“Human beings have trouble coming to terms with the unknown,” Mr. Taylor said. “Growing old is a great unknown in the lives of everyone who is not yet old.”
Ann Nixon Cooper, 106 years old in 2008, lived during a time when blacks and women did not have the right to vote.
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — Ann Nixon Cooper, 106 years old in 2008, has seen presidents come and go in her lifetime and has outlived most of them. On a sunny fall morning, in November 2008, she left her weathered but well-kept Tudor home in Atlanta, Georgia, to vote early — this time for Barack Obama.
The African-American centenarian remembers a time not long ago when she was barred from voting because of her race. Now she has lived to see the day that Obama was elected as the nation’s first black president.
“I ain’t got time to die,” Cooper said with a smile.
“Even if he didn’t win, I was happy for him just to be nominated,” said the former socialite. “The first black president — isn’t that something, at 106 years old?”
At the Fulton County government center, Cooper was greeted by Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.
“I thought that I would accompany her today to support her, but also to say to all people that this is a choice we have,” Franklin said.
“As all Americans, we should cherish the right to vote and take every opportunity we have to vote our opinions. She is an inspiration to me personally, but she is also quite an inspiration to all Atlanta.”
Cooper, in a wheelchair and helped by two caretakers, bypassed the long lines of early voters and headed right to the voting machine. Her 106-year-old hands reached out to the 21st-century touch screen to cast her vote for Obama.
Back at her home, surrounded by the elegance of a bygone era, Cooper clutched the photo albums laid out on her dining room table. The longtime socialite and community leader has called Atlanta home since the 1920s. She and her late husband, prominent dentist, Dr. Albert Cooper, raised four children in this house.
“Our days and nights were just social affairs,” she said. The home was a center of Atlanta’s black society and the scene of many parties. Celebrities, including the late singer Nat King Cole, dropped in to visit.
“It’s been a house with a heap of living going on in it,” said Cooper.
She wears a charm bracelet that former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young gave her when she turned 99.
“He adds a charm every year,” said friend and caretaker Sally Warner. “Andy says he will have to apply for a loan soon to keep up with Mrs. Cooper.”
Cooper danced the electric slide up until the age of 103. She has recently slowed down after suffering several heart attacks and a fractured hip.
On a typical day, Cooper spends hours watching television in her wood-paneled sitting room.
“Her favorite show is ‘The Price is Right,’ although she is getting used to Drew Carey as the new host,” said Warner. Other favorite shows include “Oprah” and “Dancing with the Stars.”
When the weather is nice, Cooper spends afternoons on her screened porch, watching traffic go by and reminiscing about old times. Occasionally she leaves the house for an outing.
Cooper was born in Shelbyville, Tennessee, in 1902. She grew up in Nashville with uncles and an aunt who worked as a domestic for wealthy whites.
She married Albert Cooper in Nashville in 1922, and the couple moved to Atlanta. Three of Cooper’s four children have died; her surviving daughter is 83. She has 14 grandchildren living and many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
When asked about the secret to her longevity, Cooper said, “I don’t know how it happened, but being cheerful had a lot to do with it. I’ve always been a happy person, a giggling person — a wide-mouthed person!”
To young people, Cooper offers this advice: “Keep smiling. No matter what, you get out and vote. Vote your choice.”
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR, The New York Times
It is inevitable. The muscles weaken. Hearing and vision fade. We get wrinkled and stooped. We can’t run, or even walk, as fast as we used to. We have aches and pains in parts of our bodies we never even noticed before. We get old.
It sounds miserable, but apparently it is not. A large Gallup poll has found that by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older, and researchers are not sure why.
“It could be that there are environmental changes,” said Arthur A. Stone, the lead author of a new study based on the survey, “or it could be psychological changes about the way we view the world, or it could even be biological — for example brain chemistry or endocrine changes.”
The telephone survey, carried out in 2008, covered more than 340,000 people nationwide, ages 18 to 85, asking various questions about age and sex, current events, personal finances, health and other matters.
The survey also asked about “global well-being” by having each person rank overall life satisfaction on a 10-point scale, an assessment many people may make from time to time, if not in a strictly formalized way.
Finally, there were six yes-or-no questions: Did you experience the following feelings during a large part of the day yesterday: enjoyment, happiness, stress, worry, anger, sadness. The answers, the researchers say, reveal “hedonic well-being,” a person’s immediate experience of those psychological states, unencumbered by revised memories or subjective judgments that the query about general life satisfaction might have evoked.
The results, published online May 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were good news for old people, and for those who are getting old. On the global measure, people start out at age 18 feeling pretty good about themselves, and then, apparently, life begins to throw curve balls. They feel worse and worse until they hit 50. At that point, there is a sharp reversal, and people keep getting happier as they age. By the time they are 85, they are even more satisfied with themselves than they were at 18.
In measuring immediate well-being — yesterday’s emotional state — the researchers found that stress declines from age 22 onward, reaching its lowest point at 85. Worry stays fairly steady until 50, then sharply drops off. Anger decreases steadily from 18 on, and sadness rises to a peak at 50, declines to 73, then rises slightly again to 85. Enjoyment and happiness have similar curves: they both decrease gradually until we hit 50, rise steadily for the next 25 years, and then decline very slightly at the end, but they never again reach the low point of our early 50s.
Other experts were impressed with the work. Andrew J. Oswald, a professor of psychology at Warwick Business School in England, who has published several studies on human happiness, called the findings important and, in some ways, heartening. “It’s a very encouraging fact that we can expect to be happier in our early 80s than we were in our 20s,” he said. “And it’s not being driven predominantly by things that happen in life. It’s something very deep and quite human that seems to be driving this.”
Dr. Stone, who is a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said that the findings raised questions that needed more study. “These results say there are distinctive patterns here,” he said, “and it’s worth some research effort to try to figure out what’s going on. Why at age 50 does something seem to start to change?”
The study was not designed to figure out which factors make people happy, and the poll’s health questions were not specific enough to draw any conclusions about the effect of disease or disability on happiness in old age. But the researchers did look at four possibilities: the sex of the interviewee, whether the person had a partner, whether there were children at home and employment status. “These are four reasonable candidates,” Dr. Stone said, “but they don’t make much difference.”
For people under 50 who may sometimes feel gloomy, there may be consolation here. The view seems a bit bleak right now, but look at the bright side: you are getting old.
Rose Katz, 103, of Riverdale, came to the United States from Czechoslovakia as a 20-year old and worked in New York making men’s neckties. She is fluent in English, Czech, Hungarian, Slovak and Yiddish. Photo:Alex di Suvero for The New York Times
By KAREN BARROW
GoogleNews.com, The New York Times, October 19, 2010 — Centenarians alive today are older than the Titanic, crossword puzzles and Mickey Mouse. They have lived through 19 presidencies and two world wars. They saw the rise of motion pictures and radio, followed by the invention of television.
Some traveled here long ago as immigrants; others have spent their entire lives in one small town. They have celebrated golden anniversaries and beyond, and witnessed the birth of great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
Many of them are still happy to be driving, dancing, walking or simply breathing. But others are clinging to their remaining abilities and wondering if they are too much of a burden to their loved ones.
Not surprisingly, the question they hear most often is “What is the secret to a long life?”
ESTHER TUTTLE, 99 “I think the secret of a long life is partly genes, but I also think it’s being conscious of your body. Your body is your instrument. So I always did exercises, did a lot of yoga, stretching exercises and walking. Eat in moderation and drink in moderation. Because everybody smoked, I kind of had to smoke in self-defense. But moderation is a wonderful thing.”
HAZEL MILLER, 100 “There’s no secret about it, really. You just don’t die, and you get to be 100.
“I have always liked to dance. But as you know, after a certain age, there are no men to dance with. So I started line dancing, and I belong to a group called the Silver Belles, and we made costumes, and we danced and did public service engagements.
“I don’t need help with anything. I just pass the time reading, painting, going. I have a lot of friends I visit with. I eat out two or three times a week. So the time passes. In fact, I flit around doing a lot of things when I should be painting.
“The best part of being 100 is you live to be 100. If you can enjoy it, that is an extra good thing.”
Phil Damsky, 100, of Brooklyn, lived most of his life in various Brooklyn neighborhoods. He served as a manager of a shoe store for about 30 years. Photo: Alex di Suvero for The New York Times
PHIL DAMSKY, 100 “We go out to lunch every once in a while. So we went to a place called Hooters, and there were eight or nine of us. Somebody told the manager that I was 100 years old. So the manager said that they’d pay for the meal — we didn’t have to pay for the meals. Then we took pictures with the waitresses. I thought it was very nice of them.
“My appetite was always good. You know, food is food. I like a corned beef sandwich, corned beef or pastrami. But then I have to watch myself because some of these things have too much salt.
“I thought I was going to live forever, but there’s no such thing. But enjoy every minute that you’re living. I think that’s some good advice.”
ROSE KATZ, 103 “I don’t know what a cold is. I was always a healthy person — a healthy, strong person. I suppose that’s what keeps me alive.”