90-year-olds say Key to a Long, Happy Life is Avoiding Stress and Being Useful

Jean Miller, 94: 'I was working in a salon up until last year, but I was feeling a few aches and pains.'
Jean Miller, 94: ‘I was working in a salon up until last year, but I was feeling a few aches and pains.’

A study suggests that average life expectancy will soon exceed 90 for the first time. Women born in South Korea in 2030 are forecast to have a life expectancy of 90, with other developed countries not far behind.

France is second in the league table for women, at 88.6 years, with British women 21st, at 85.2 years, and British men 14th, at 82.5 years.

We asked men and women in their 90s what life has taught them about ageing. Here is a selection of our interviews.

Jean Miller, 94, from Falkirk: ‘Life is an education. I’ve realised there’s a rhyme and reason for everything’

The key to reaching such a good age is to keep active and interested in things. I was working in a salon up until last year, but I had to leave as I was feeling a few aches and pains. I didn’t want it to get to the point where management asked me to leave. I used to take coats and make sure all the guests through the door were attended to. I made lots of great friends this way.

The moment you stop and sit in a chair is when you struggle. I have a lovely family and have taken an interest in the world around me. Now I am no longer working I go to a gym class on a Monday. It’s a class for over 50s so it’s fun, enjoyable exercises. We have tea afterwards. I also joined the University of the Third Age, a group for retired or semi-retired people to get together and learn for fun. There’s a theatre group I am part of through this and I am also hoping we will get to learn German soon. I signed up but we need a few more people to get involved before we can get started.

Life is an education and if you don’t learn as go along then that’s bad. I’ve learned to see things in a different way over time. My biggest lesson is to be more patient. I used to worry about things but now I don’t. I’ve realised there’s a rhyme and reason for everything. In life you’ve got to take things as they come.

Pam Zeldin, 94, from Manchester: ‘Get enough sleep, and don’t drink to excess – that said my older sister does enjoy a little G&T’

I live with my sister Nora, who is 98, and we look after each other. Ten years ago her husband died and both her daughters were living in France at the time, so I said she could come and stay with me. We have always got on very well, and work as a team. We do all our own housework and have a chap who comes to tend to the garden. We clean the house together – she does the upstairs and I do downstairs. She cooks, and I do everything I can to help.

My main advice for people who want to live to a good age is to look after your health and live moderately. Also, get enough sleep, and don’t drink to excess – that said, Nora does enjoy a little G&T in the evenings!

When I retired, I joined a local choir and the Townswomen’s Guild. Getting involved in the community is really important as you get older because it broadens your social circle and your interests. I have always tried to get out a lot. I have two daughters, one of whom lives very nearby, so she often gives us a lift, or we’ll get a taxi. She also takes us on trips to places nearby, which we really enjoy. I have a scooter which comes in very handy and we have a little push trolley for when we go shopping. We also go to the cinema and the theatre, and on coach trips around the country. We go to the library and get our medicines delivered. We can’t go too far but we manage just fine.

I have learned that tolerance and routine is good. And to look after yourself and stay as active as possible. Being in your 90s is not as fun as other ages because you’re not as active, and your mobility is restricted. But you have to learn to cope as best you can. We have visitors – my other granddaughter who lives in London has come to Manchester University, so I am here for her at any time. It’s wonderful having grandchildren in the family.

What would I tell my younger self? I think I’ve done ok, but I would say, start as early as you can to make yourself financially stable for when you get older, so that you don’t have to worry. Take advantage of every opportunity – don’t just sit in the house. Also, travel as much as you possibly can – see the world, live well, take care of yourself. But don’t take things too seriously – it’s important to have lots of fun along the way too.

Krishnamoorty Dasu, 90, New Jersey, US: ‘To a great extent, age is just a state of the mind’

I’ve made it to this good age simply because death has been kind enough not to knock on my door.

I enjoy my life, it is a gift. Negotiating it itself is fun. Old age is what others attribute to you. To a great extent, age is a state of the mind. I take pleasure from listening to music and reading fiction. This is what I do for enjoyment these days.

I have learned a lot over the years but the most important thing: be useful to yourself and to others. If I could send a message to my younger self it would be to keep your mind and body fit by reading and rumination and through walking exercises. Also, eat in moderation. You really do not need all that food you eat.

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The Guardian

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