It's ok to be confused

How to Live for a Very Long Time

I have read enough about the science of longevity at this point[1] to be familiar with the major trains of thought. No one need explain to me what a telomere is, or why we should drink the blood of the young. I'm familiar with the concept ketosis and fasting, with a wide range of diets and the religious fervor of following them, with the purported benefits on mixing arsenic, nitric acid, copper carbonate, and rose water.

But do you know what the proponents of these theories have in common? None of them are very, very old, much less 122 years old. Few of them are even supercentenarians. Shouldn't we be paying some attention to the insight of the people[2] who have actually succeeded in pushing the boundaries of the human lifespan?

The answer to that rhetorical question is yes. And without further ado, here is a sample of advice from truly old people on how they did it:

Jeanne Calment (122 years, 164 days)

Jeanne Calment ate chocolate every day and smoked a cigarette after lunch and before bed. She rode her bicycle until she was 100 years old.

Calment on her 117th birthday (source)

Sarah Knauss (119 years, 97 days)

Sarah Knauss recommended not getting upset about anything, and when told she was the worlds oldest person, responded "So what?"

Knauss at 115 (source)

Emma Morano (117 years and counting)

Emma Morano recommends eating raw eggs, sleeping for days, and staying single.

Morano at 115 (source)

Misao Okawa (117 years, 27 days)

Misao Okawa advised people to "eat delicious things" and get lots of sleep. When asked for her secret to longevity, she said “I wonder about that too.”

Okawa on her 115th birthday (source)

Violet Brown (116 and counting)

Violent Brown credits her long life to her devotion to God, hard work, and coconut sauce.

Brown at 110 (source)

There are, of course, many other women on the list of the world's oldest people, and they are well worth reading about in greater depth than I have given in these brief summaries. I like to remember my own great grandfather, who's 100th birthday I attended as an infant. He read the obituaries in the paper every day and one by one crossed off the names of his competitors for the title of oldest person in his town[3].

As to the actionable health, diet, and lifestyle takeaways, I will let you decide for yourself.

[1]: I've read the headlines at least, and definitely some pull quotes. (back)

[2]: Make no mistake, by "people" here I mean women. (back)

[3]: He died at 101, having successfully outlived all his local competition. (back)

Mouse Reeve

Mouse is a software engineer at the Internet Archive, a historical occultism, and a true believer in nonsense. Nonsense is important.

San Francisco @tripofmice