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Living Past 100

Marilyn Murray Willison on

Last weekend, while reading The New York Times, I enjoyed learning about a remarkable 107-year-old man named Joe Binder who is still full of life and good humor. The article, written by journalist Corey Kilgannon, was accompanied by photos that showed a well-dressed, happy Binder blowing out candles on his birthday cake. Remarkably, he doesn't wear glasses, walks with just a cane and has no serious health complaints. As Binder told Kilgannon, "everything works" more or less.

Binder frequently visits the bar at a neighborhood restaurant called Rigoletto in the Bronx, which he calls his "fountain of youth." There, he often enjoys a brandy (or two) and is well-known for singing and dancing to long-ago hits like "Minnie the Moocher" and "Sweet Violets." When asked about his secret to aging so well, his response was that being kind to people was essential. "If you get hurt, you turn the other cheek," he says. The people at his birthday party all commented on what a kind, loving and wonderful man Binder is.

With each passing year, there seem to be more and more Americans who are living long enough to celebrate their 100th birthday. Most baby boomers fondly remember watching the "Today" show's Willard Scott make a fuss over the "amazing" Americans who had managed to reach this milestone birthday. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans who are age 100 or older are more plentiful than ever, and their numbers have been steadily growing. In 1980, only 32,194 Americans were centenarians. By 2000, that number was 50,281, and in 2014, there were 72,197. Essentially, the number has more than doubled in 34 years.

Improvements in antibiotics, medicine, sanitation efforts and vaccines have all contributed to overall longevity. Additionally, death rates for pneumonia and the flu have dropped consistently in recent decades.

But when it comes to a truly focused effort toward longevity extension, Silicon Valley appears to be the epicenter of lifespan research. For example, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is actively helping to fund companies that are focused on life extension, and Dave Asprey, famous for founding the Bulletproof movement, has invested millions to research health-enhancing techniques. Oracle founder Larry Elison has donated more than $430 million to anti-aging research, and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have created a company named Calico, which hopes to use drug development and genetic research to extend human lifespan. Additionally, Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos, has invested in Unity Biotechnology, which focuses on cellular mechanisms and age-related diseases.

As reported by Live Science's Rachael Rettner, longevity is more than just overall health. She writes that according to Holly Prigerson, a geriatrics professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, the biggest health threat for people over 100 years old are diseases that affect the mind and cognitive dysfunction. "It appears that their minds give out before their bodies do," she says.

 

Oddly enough, when it comes to overall longevity for the pre-centenarian population, the United States is not performing all that well. Worldwide, we rank 23rd for women and 27th for men. According to the Lancet journal, a study that compared 35 industrialized nations predicts that women in South Korea will live to be 91 by 2030.

As we all know, diet, exercise and good lifestyle choices all play a role in how long we live. But it pays to remember Binder's approach to life, which includes dancing, singing and laughter, as well as an active social life. We should all be so lucky...

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Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2019 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

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