MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO-TV) — It’s something that used to be rare, but it’s becoming much more common. More people are living to 100, especially in the U.S. So it got us wondering, what is the key to a long life? WCCO-TV in Minneapolis went straight to the source to answer that Good Question.
Doraine Bingham will be 102 on Nov. 3. Diana Koelling turned 100 on June 20. They live in Presbyterian Homes of Bloomington in Minnesota, where just next week 10 more residents will celebrate being 100-plus.
Bingham and Koelling have quite the stories to tell, because their life stories span more than a century. Koelling says she never imagined she would live to 100. But she’s tough. She lost her husband at 28 and went to work while proudly raising her three kids.
“I was very active all my life, I golfed and swam,” she said.
Bingham raised four kids and worked in a blood lab at the Mayo Clinic. She is active, too, taking up tap dancing in her 60s. “The main thing is to keep active,” she said. “Once you start staying in your apartment, you kinda turn it off.”
Their neighbor Ken Hanson, a World War II vet, stays active, too. He’s a skilled artist and cook. He turns 101 next week. “Why not be optimistic about it?” he said. “I hardly ever think about death. I got too many things I want to do.”
Dr. Kathleen Woo-Rippe heads up the geriatrics population program for Allina. “When I see the people who are over 100, they all have something in common, and that is they’re pretty feisty,” Woo-Rippe said.
The population she serves is growing. The U.S. has more people over 100 than any other country — 97,000.
Woo-Rippe says there are a few reasons people are living longer. “Number one is their attitude, they enjoy life,’ she said.
She believes another huge reason, like Koelling and Bingham suggested, is physical activity. “We hear it all the time, exercise is good for you but it really is,” she said. “Not only physically is it good for you, but it’s also good for your brain.”
She says it’s also key to keep learning new things and to stay social with friends and family.
As for the “good genes” theory? “There is a portion of the longevity that comes from genes, but it’s about 20, 25%,” Woo-Rippe said. “The rest of it is how you live your life.”
And clearly these centurions we talked with have life figured out. “I’m not ready yet, I’m not ready to go upstairs,” Hanson said.
The geriatrician we spoke with says others reasons people are living longer are because of advancements in medicine and because they are eating fresher, less processed food.