On December 4th, a remarkable woman by the name of Besse Brown Cooper passed away, ending her reign as the oldest living person on Earth at 116 years of age. Besse’s legacy is marked not only by the fact that she lived through three different centuries, but also by her extraordinary health; she never had any serious illnesses or ailments and in her final days only experienced minimal heart issues and deteriorated vision.
In addition to her physical health, she remained cognitively sharp and still possessed what her son described as “amazing” long-term memory up until her last day. So what was Besse’s secret to healthy aging? What can we learn from her? Here are a few of her longevity secrets:
1. Follow a healthy, balanced diet, but include what you enjoy in moderation. While Besse’s diet was rich in vegetables, fruits and other nutritious staples, she did occasionally enjoy “guilty pleasures” – a few potato chips, fried chicken and bacon at breakfast.
2. Do your own housework. Besse enjoyed being outdoors, maintaining her garden, raking her leaves and doing her own yard work for decades.
3. Take control. Studies have shown that genetic factors only account for approximately one-third of our health and longevity while the other two-thirds can be attributed to lifestyle factors—behaviors in our control. Neither of Besse’s parents lived past the age of 72 and her seven siblings all died in their sixties and seventies demonstrating that genes aren’t everything.
4. Maintain a sense of humor. When Besse learned that a local bridge would commemorate her legacy by taking her name she remarked, “I’m glad I gave ‘em a reason to name it.” Her son, Sidney, noted that her wit seemed to improve with age. As George Bernard Shaw said, “You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
At Home Care Assistance we embrace a positive approach to aging through our Balanced Care Method™(BCM) program. The BCM is based on studies of the extraordinarily long-lived elders in the Okinawa region of Japan where life spans of over 100 years are not unusual. In addition, these individuals rarely experience heart disease, cancer, dementia, diabetes, and other conditions assumed to be “normal experiences of aging” in many parts of the world. Like Besse, Okinawans in their 70s, 80s and beyond enjoy excellent physical health, mental acuity, independence and inner calm. These older adults are not only living longer, they are living well longer!