“Key lessons from the sustainable life of a beloved centenarian”
My grandmother Göta recently turned 100 years old (!!!). In connection to her Big Birthday, I received frequent questions about her diet and way of living. I found myself giving many negative responses:
“Does she eat a lot of vegetables? No” , ”Is Greek or Turkish yoghurt part of her diet? No” , “Is she a non-drinker? No ”, “Has she conducted any sports? No” and so on and so on…
So what is her secret?
As I see it, the lifelong practices contributing to her longevity are:
- A strict diet consisting of the following main ingredients: potatoes, white flour, meat, sugar and lots of butter. I spent most of my childhood years in her house and never saw her prepare a salad, but hundreds of cakes and cookies.
- Her daily routine of cooking and baking everything at home. No fabricated food, no cake mixes, no additives or E-numbers. Instead pure food always made from scratch.
- Her ways of always staying on her feet. I cannot recall my grandmother sitting down other than for eating at the dinner table. At the age of 90+, she still tied her shoe laces while standing up on one leg. And she always, always bent down to correct a misplaced fringe/tuft on interior rugs.
- Her good (and environmentally friendly!) habit of always walking everywhere: to the grocery store, to the post office, to pick me up at school and to visit her other grandchildren. About 15 years back, she accompanied me to the forest to pick cloud berries. Everyone who has ever gone on such an adventure knows these particular berries grows in high elevated marshlands far away from most roads…
- Her amazing physical strength, set aside some problems with her hips from around age 80 and onwards. As a young girl, I always heard these stories of how my grandma used to arm wrestle my grandfather’s colleagues from the mine and always won. Needless to say, all my own attempts have always ended in brutal failure… But then I wasn’t raised in a farm house in the middle of the wilderness of northern Sweden with no road access, having to catch my own bird for dinner a’ la the Hunger Games.
- Her mental strength. A stubborn woman with strong views, not afraid to share them with everyone whom she thinks needs some clear guidance on everything from behavior to the latest fashion trends. She has also had an amazing ability to lift herself back on track when life has been rough: Deaf from the age of four, the loss of a sister and a fiancée, her husband almost killed in a car crash while she was home alone with their two young daughters, break-ins at her house etc.
- Last but not least, she has always been loving and caring to her friends and family and continues to be so until this very day!
Since a few months back Göta lives in an elderly home. She enjoys good food and frequent exercise and stays smiling. My current hope is of course that she will be blessed to become a super centenarian, i.e. a person who lives to the age 100 or more. Let’s cross all our fingers and toes!
Some Wiki facts about centenarians
According to the United Nations, there were about 316 000 living centenarians worldwide in 2012. The United States had 53 000 centenarians, equivalent to 17 per every 100 000 of inhabitants (numbers from year 2010). So that explains why it was difficult- however not impossible- to find balloons and other party decorations with the number 100 (most offered up to 80)!
In 2010, Sweden had around 1800 centenarians or 19 per every 100 000. The record is hold by Japan, with 51 000 centenarians, which equals to 35 per every 100 000 (numbers from year 2012).