The world’s oldest man, Walter Breuning, died Thursday of natural causes. The Montana resident was 114.
Coincidentally, ABC World News aired a segment the same day about 97-year-old Agnes Zhelesnik, who is still a full-time preschool teacher in New Jersey.
I’ve always been somewhat fascinated with people who live to be centenarians (or at least come close). I may even be married to a future one, considering my wife’s great-grandmother Ethel lived to be 107.
My fascination comes from considering how much change and notable events these “golden oldies” have seen in their lifetimes — and the ages they were when those things took place. For example, Breuning was born before baseball’s American League was organized (1900), Teddy Roosevelt became president (1901), Thomas Edison invented the modern battery (1902), the Ford Motor Company sold its first automobile (1903), the Wright brothers’ first flight (1903), the New York City subway opened (1904), and Scouting was founded in Britain by Sir Robert Baden-Powell (1907). He was a teenager when the Titanic sunk and World War I began; in his 20s when Prohibition was enacted and American women won the right to vote; in his 30s when the Great Depression began; in his 40s when the Hindenburg blew up, Amelia Earhart was lost at sea and World War II took place; in his 50s when the Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in public schools, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned and Sen. Joseph McCarthy waged a libelous war against alleged communists; in his 60s when the Soviet Union sent the first man into space, President Kennedy was assassinated, and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones started playing; in his 70s when Martin Luther King was assassinated, men landed on the moon, and the Watergate scandal took place; in his 80s when John Hinckley shot President Reagan and the space shuttle Challenger exploded; in his 90s when the Exxon Valdez dumped more than a million gallons of crude oil into the Alaskan waters and the first Iraq war took place; in his 100s when the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place; and in his 110s when America elected its first black president.
So what’s the secret to long life? Reporters always ask that of centenarians, and according to the Washington Post, Breuning’s answers to that question were:
Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. (“Every change is good.”)
Eat two meals a day. (“That’s all you need.”)
Work as long as you can. (“That money’s going to come in handy.”)
Help others. (“The more you do for others, the better shape you’re in.”)
And the hardest of all: Accept death.
“We’re going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die, because you’re born to die,” he said.
Zhelesnik’s keys to staying active well into your 90s are keeping busy and having a sense of purpose.
In August 2009, I wrote about Freyda Siegel, a Massachusetts woman who had recently turned 100. You can read her tips for living a long life well by clicking here.
When I wrote that blog post, I asked readers to share their own tips for living life well, even if they’re still young. I’m making the same request now. Share your thoughts in the comments section, and of course, live your life well.