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Saturday, February 18, 2023

Life Advice from Centenarians

‘Keep your eyes open – and leap into the future’: 100 centenarians’ 100 tips for a life well lived

By Philippa Kelly, Kitty DrakeFebruary 18, 2023

What’s the secret to making it into triple figures? Never stay stuck in the past, keep a diary … and dance while you still can

Edward Toms, 102

British army colonel, diplomat and writer; Kent, England
Have a happy disposition, a pronounced sense of humour and the ability to laugh at yourself. Mutually fall in love with your partner and stay in that relationship until “death do you part”. Experience fulfilling, natural, lasting sexual enjoyment. Never be bored, because so many pleasures are available to you. Enjoy the sharing of these pleasures when appropriate, but also solitude from time to time.

Dorothy Marley, 102

Executive secretary; Toronto, Canada
Try to get through each day without hurting anyone. Feel good about yourself. I had my hair done the other day and when the hairdresser showed me, I said to her: “I could fall in love with myself all over again!” And, last of all, having a good sense of humour doesn’t hurt.

Yvonne Old, 101

Teacher; Staffordshire, England
In the war years I worked as a teacher. One of the staff told me: “Remember, plenty of laughter, but no shouting.” And do you know, he was right? Very good advice. I knit blankets for children in Africa. I’m not a knitter by trade, but I can knit, and if something’s going to help someone, then it’s worth doing.

Amelia Mendel, 106

Stage actor and couture saleswoman; London, England
Having an interesting life has helped me to grow old. I have great memories to talk about. The staff at my home chase after me as I charge down the corridors on my Zimmer frame. If I don’t want to get out of bed, I refuse to, because I can – I’m an old lady.

Edmund W Gordon, 101

John M Musser professor of psychology emeritus, Yale University; New York, US

Prof Edmund W Gordon. Photograph: Chris Buck/The Guardian

The greatest achievement of my life was that I married the right woman. I married her when I was 26, and when she died I was 95, so we had 70 years together. This is self-congratulatory, but I sometimes think it’s not just about meeting the right people, you have to do right by them to bring out the best in them.

Doris Martin, 102

Auxiliary Territorial Service veteran and shorthand typist; Essex, England
Keeping your mind active is important. I watch quiz shows, read murder-mysteries on my Kindle, and play Scrabble – I win about 50% of the time. Having family around you is also important. I have four children, nine grandchildren and six, soon to be seven, great-grandchildren, and I still remember everybody’s birthdays.

Fernando Cavia Escudero,

Winemaker; Madrid, Spain
I still read every day. When you read, you learn new things that awaken your curiosity or instinct. And you have to move so you don’t get lazy like a fool. You should also be patient and not stressed. Be humble.

Nikki Fonseka, 103

Women’s Auxiliary Air Force veteran and hotel manager; London, England
I was always ready to accept challenges and always gave the best I could. I cannot recall staying in bed later than 6am, and I am always dressed before breakfast. Reading has kept my mind alert. The local library visited every fortnight with eight to 10 books – they found it a huge task to find ones I hadn’t already read.

Hilda Hill, 101

Business owner; Coventry, England
I try to eat sensibly, although I haven’t always, and I’ve drunk too much in my time. I don’t do that now, of course. Before I lost my sight, I used to play competition Scrabble. When I couldn’t see any more, I started inventing little word puzzles in my mind.

Haruko Ooko, 104

Assistant to the Lutheran Fathers; Tokyo, Japan
The secret to maintaining physical and mental health? The community life at my nursing home. There used to be a cafeteria run by volunteers, where outside visitors were welcome. I used to enjoy waitressing there and miss that a lot. I even did it after turning 100 in 2019.

Virginia Ballon, 101

Kindergarten teacher; Lima, Peru

 Photograph: Morgana Vargas Llosa/The Guardian

Dance a lot, avoid stress and remember that all problems have a solution. If your husband makes you feel bad, say: “Bye!” Women are ready to survive alone very well, and living free is priceless. I had two divorces and I survived very well – I am over 100. Be happy and manage your freedom wisely.

Joan Urquhart, 106

Auxiliary Territorial Service veteran, teacher, lecturer and hotelier; County Down, Northern Ireland
I eat lots of fruit and vegetables, along with a few things I shouldn’t, like chocolate eclairs and gooseberry fools. If possible, travel abroad. See other countries and the way people live there. Learn a language. I speak German and French, and took German A-level in my 80s – but I wouldn’t like to be tested now!

Sokola Radonic, 101

Homemaker; Zagreb, Croatia
What contributed to my longevity? Nature, food, singing in a choir until my 80s, and dancing. You need to have lots of patience and to endure some things. You shouldn’t quit right away. For happiness, health is the most important – and love for other people. Wealth is in last place.
Sokola Radonic died on 28 November 2022. She is survived by two children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren

George Watkeys, 101

RAF wireless operator and dentist; Vale of Glamorgan, Wales
A tipple of whisky keeps you going. Go to bed early. Do lots of singing. Don’t miss out. If any opportunity comes along – take it. Make the most of every day.

Blanche Fromenton, 102

Nanny and retail worker; Bedfordshire, England
I’m often asked my secret. It must stem from my school days. I was rather athletic, drank no alcohol and ate a healthy diet – perhaps all my ballroom dancing helped too. Important things are determination and perseverance. Being a parent is the most important. Be sensible with money. Buy things you need, not want. And always get a good night’s sleep.

Margaret Stretton, 100

Women’s Land Army veteran, shorthand typist, bookkeeper and fundraiser; London, England
I became a sacristan and didn’t retire from that until I was 99. For the last two years, I’ve been making preserves and marmalade for a local charity. This year I’ve raised more than £100 already. The fact I’ve lived as long as I have is out of my hands – I don’t know why I’ve been blessed with this age.

Guy Warren, 101

Artist; Sydney, Australia
I still spend as much time as possible working in my studio. I find it essential to my wellbeing to look at something I have made, see the mistakes and realise how much better I could do it next time. Keep an up-to-date and working bullshit detector somewhere handy – you will need it many times.

Dabirul Islam Choudhury, 103

Translator, community leader and fundraiser; London, England

 Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

When I’m doing my fundraising, helping humanity, it keeps me engaged and busy. The most difficult thing for senior people is not having a purpose in life, but helping people gives me therapy. Young people should make something of their lives by getting on their feet and doing something positive, leaving an impression for others.

Ken Griffiths, 100

RAF pilot and chief executive; Bristol, England
On my first day at work, the managing director said: “What job do you want in the company?” I said: “I know, but it’s not vacant.” He said: “Why?” And I said: “Because it’s your job.” Any young person should consider where their future lies. I always felt that God had a purpose for me.

Lindsay Tise, 104

Electrician and competitive golfer; North Carolina, US
Golf keeps me going. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I do about three hours of exercise – that’s certainly helped me stay healthy. My advice is hard work with a little play thrown in. I also had a good wife: she fed me well, she treated me well – I couldn’t have asked for better.

Peter Whiteley, 100

Company director; London, England
Always keep your temper, and laugh whenever you can. Keep your eyes open and notice what’s happening around you. I’ve always been interested in new technology and remain so today. A lot of people pursue money beyond everything else. Having enough money not to be a burden is important, but beyond that it’s not really important.

Tony Price, 102

Second world war veteran and parts manager; British Columbia, Canada
I always recommend that young people keep diaries. It’s very important, because when you get older you think: “Oh, I should have written this down.” But now, if I were to write about my life, I wouldn’t live long enough to write everything that’s happened. I also recommend not to spend too much time on computers.

Nancy McGill, 100

Council worker and befriending volunteer; Fife, Scotland
I’ve no idea how I made it to 100, I think it’s just work. I volunteered into my 90s, until my legs stopped working. Talking is important too, and people-watching. Everybody’s got to do something. I mean, you can’t just sit on your bottom all day, can you?

Angela Redgrave, 105

Dancer and principal of Bristol School of Dancing; Bristol, England

 Photograph: Harry Borden/The Guardian

My daughter is still running the School of Dancing, so we have a talk every night about what’s going on. The girls take various examinations and I like to know how they’ve done, who’s got top marks. I just carry on taking an interest in everything that’s going on. And, of course, I have my little dozes in the afternoon.

Bernard Kalb, 100

Journalist, author and lecturer; Maryland, US
I go through the newspapers every morning, underline what’s most urgent and try to paste it in my mind. I’ve kept those habits from my lifetime as a reporter. I want to be right at the cutting edge of the news. You have a responsibility to be interesting. Keep your eyes open, your emotions free. Leap into the future!
Bernard Kalb died on 8 January 2023. He is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.

Vi Bennett, 100

Shorthand typist; Norfolk, England
Go on as many dates as you can and have a lot of fun. Drink moderately so you remember the evening. Hold hands, don’t take your partner for granted, laugh with them. Travel as much as you can – it doesn’t have to be on a plane, there are loads of beautiful places in the UK.

Christina Smith, 100

Bakery and retail worker; Perthshire, Scotland
Living a good life and experiencing different things is what’s kept me healthy. I’m lucky to have been very social and active, including going to church every Sunday, and bowling and curling. Because I’ve been physically active I’ve been able to eat whatever I want, which is advice I would give to anyone. I’m partial to a wee brandy too.

Sybil Nash, 100

Council worker; Gloucestershire, England
Keeping physically and mentally fit is important. What’s the point of living if you don’t understand things? Always be pleasant and don’t judge people on just a first meeting – don’t be nasty. Live a pleasant life and do what you can for others. If you get the opportunity to travel, take it!

Henry L Richards, 100

Small-business owner; Pennsylvania, US
I love gardening. I don’t get to do it so much any more, but that was one of my hobbies. I also painted for many years. All my life I have made sure to occupy myself, and stay busy. Now I’m enjoying my family. I am reaping what I sowed through hard work.

Frances Wessells, 103

Dancer, choreographer and associate professor; Virginia, US
My parents were musicians, so they had to carry their instruments when they performed. But I was my instrument, and from when I was a child, I was very conscious of what was healthy for my instrument. Don’t ever let anything stop you from moving.

Colin Bell, 101

RAF pilot, chartered surveyor and public speaker; Kent, England

Colin Bell at the RAF Club in London. Photograph: Harry Borden/The Guardian

The true answer is that living a long life is a matter of luck – a matter of the genes you’re built with. The amusing answer, in my case, is that it’s a combination of alcohol, exercise and the love of good women – with the odd bad one thrown in.

Morton Mintz, 101

Journalist; Washington, US
All my needs – and they’re relatively modest – are met. Does somebody else have more? More money? A bigger house? I couldn’t care less. I have a loving family – that’s really, really important – and I couldn’t have had a happier marriage. My advice would be not to be beset by envy.

Isabel Jiménez Domínguez, 101

Seamstress and homemaker; Seville, Spain
I’m a confident person. I always thought I could improve and solve whatever problem I had. It usually worked. I lived on a farm until my 40s, then in city flats without lifts – I had very nice calves! I also never smoked or driven in traffic. Don’t follow the crowd. Boredom will get you in trouble … stay busy.

Anne Campbell, 100

Nurse; County Down, Northern Ireland
It’s important to keep up with what’s going on, what the government’s doing. I’d like to change some things, but that’s not up to me, I suppose. People have said: “What’s the recipe for your longevity?” I couldn’t tell them. But I think to be happy, content and for your family to look after you, that helps.

Pat Dartnell, 100

Engineer and fashion retail worker; Hampshire, England
Reaching 100 is nothing to do with me, really, it’s just my genes – my father was 101 and he had a sister who was 100. The younger generation have been brought up differently, so used to plenty, whereas my generation was not. That’s not to say “poor me”, but that it’s good to accept things as they are.

Eva Proctor, 100

Factory supervisor; Tyne and Wear, England
My mother always told us to do what we could for anybody else, especially children, as she said they would grow up nicer if they were treated nicely and helped on their way in life. Help others, but also always stop and think before doing or saying anything – make sure you don’t hurt someone’s feelings.

Ula Rigg, 100

Firefighter, actor, teacher and adjudicator; Wiltshire, England
There’s an opportunity for everyone, you mustn’t just sit and vegetate, you have to try to keep your interests going. In fact, three weeks ago I gave a recital to the other residents here. Always look to the future. Try to accept a challenge if it’s there for you to take.

Ida L Cheatham, 103

Housekeeper, house manager and caterer; Virginia, US

 Photograph: Matt Eich/The Guardian

Hate will destroy you, hate will destroy your mind. If you have a disagreement with people, or they do you wrong, speak your piece and go on. Keep your mind, because that’s freedom right there. I love life – I know I was created by God to love life – so anything that happens, I don’t care how bad it is, I can do all of it.

Martha Ferreira Jiménez de Aréchaga, 100

English teacher and agribusiness sector worker; Montevideo, Uruguay
Spanish is my native language, and I read and speak English and French fluently, which is helpful in keeping my mind working and young. All my life I’ve read books and the papers every morning, especially political news – and I still do. I believe in God, and have always had a very good sense of humour.

Frances Compston, 101

Auxiliary Territorial Service veteran, baker, greengrocer and playgroup assistant; Lancaster, England
I keep active by walking, swimming, doing pilates and yoga, and playing golf. Some life lessons are good living, keeping active and helping my grandchildren to learn, as they also keep me young. My tips for the younger generation are to play games, stay close with friends and family. And knit.

Robert Munie, 100

US Air Force and army, civil service worker, computer operator and systems analyst; Michigan, US
I’m not sure how I got to 100 … maybe it’s something to do with being from a big family. There were 10 kids and six girls, so there were a lot of fights. It kept us on our toes. Don’t smoke – I did, but don’t do it. Find a job you like. Take it easy.

Mercedes Landázuri, 104

Seamstress; Carchi, Ecuador
Smile all the time, even when in trouble. Be sociable. Help people who need help and let people who want to help, help you. Love music from your country and from other cultures in the world – especially songs from those kids called the Beatles. And make sure your 16 daughters and sons grow up honest!
Mercedes Landázuri died on 8 August 2022. She is survived by 16 children, 52 grandchildren, 65 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great-grandchildren

Martha Van Coillie, 105

Pharmacy manager; Flanders, Belgium
My curiosity and love of exercise brought me far and wide in the world. I loved wandering … my feet tickle when I think of the joy this brings. I also have a favourite song that I sing every day: Tout Va Très Bien Madame la Marquise. Singing has been a good help in adversity.

Edith ‘Dot’ Wyborn, 106

Admiralty clerk; West Sussex, England
Make your own mistakes, that’s how you learn. Make sure you are friends with your life partner – you don’t have to be madly in love. Make sure you agree with each other and like doing the same things. It’s no use arguing all the time. Keep active and busy – and have a glass of sherry a day.
Edith ‘Dot’ Wyborn died on 24 November 2022. She is survived by two sons, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Concepción ‘Conchita’ Calvillo de Nava, 105

Nurse and activist; San Luis Potosi, Mexico

‘Always try to keep your family together,’ says Concepción ‘Conchita’ Calvillo de Nava. Photograph: Mariceu Erthal García/The Guardian

Moderation and prudence. Moderation is the avoidance of excess in every way from a young age, even through hard times. Always try to keep your family together, despite the differences that will occur. Comprehend the changing of times – never stay stuck in the past or its difficulties.

Roslyn Menaker, 103

Boutique owner and homemaker; Chicago, US
I love to look at beautiful clothes and eat out. I have an amazing caregiver. She gives me manicures and pedicures, and colours my hair. I wear beautiful hats and go on daily walks – now in my wheelchair. What else is important? Happiness, joy, appreciation. A positive outlook. Kindness and generosity. Try not to worry. No smoking or drinking – except for an occasional cocktail.

Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira, 100

British army traffic analyser, Foreign Office worker, GCHQ worker, magazine editor and honorary archivist; London, England
Working at Bletchley Park was very enjoyable. There was no bureaucracy, everyone did whatever was necessary when asked. Always be prepared to be a team player. Grab opportunities and learn as much as possible as you go along. Enjoy what you do and give it your best endeavours.

Margaret Parsons, 101

Factory worker and accounts assistant; Hampshire, England
Work hard – don’t retire until well into your 70s. Be happy and keep a positive attitude. Have friends of all ages. Keep cycling at least into your 80s. Accept all invitations. If you’ve walked through the blitz, you can cope with most things. Get out in your Mazda MX-5 – with the top down – at least twice a week.

Mary Watkins, 102

Auxiliary Territorial Service veteran and deputy headteacher; Surrey, England
I always told my students there would be some days when everything goes right and the world is good, and others when it is just the opposite. You need to learn to accept this and get on with it. It is difficult, but it stands you in good stead in life and helps you to cope.

Iris Apfel, 101

Businesswoman, interior designer, fashion designer and model; Florida, US
My first big job in fashion came when I was 84, so to me, cliche as it is, age is just a number. I always say being passionate about my projects and putting my heart and soul into them have kept me young. That’s why I’ll never stop working. My philosophy is to live in the now – yesterday is gone, you don’t know if there’s even going to be a tomorrow, so you might as well enjoy today.

Norma Barzman, 102

Screenwriter; California, US

Norma Barzman at her home in Beverly Hills, California. Photograph: Philip Cheung/The Guardian

I see other older people not doing much and not caring much about anything, whereas I love seeing new things. I have met people like me of my age who are interested in things and who are working, who are writing, who are painting, and they have a much happier life. Keep on doing things!

Ana Llona, 100

Homemaker; Santiago, Chile
Get yourself great parents and a large family. Eat well. Practise one sport at least five days a week. Marry a wise woman. Work hard at something motivating. Don’t smoke or use drugs.
Ana Llona died on 18 August 2022. She is survived by nine children, 45 grandchildren and 107 great-grandchildren.

Molly Todd, 103

Women’s Auxiliary Air Force veteran, tailor and PE teacher; North Yorkshire, England
I keep a diary and I keep up with the modern world – you’ve just got to – that’s how my life is still perfect at 103. That and my family. You should always keep in touch with your family – always. Family should come first in everything.

Jay Norris, 102

Red Cross nurse, governess, saleswoman, teacher and writer; Warwick, England
I focus on fun. We only have one life, so enjoyment is vital if we are to get things done. There isn’t anything surprising or any secrets, all the things I have done are within the law. There are no secret pains, which is nice, no secret lover – I don’t even want one for that matter.

Sonja de Lennart, 102

Fashion designer (and inventor of capri pants); Berlin, Germany
Don’t let your parents, or anyone else, get in your way if you have different goals in life than those they or others think you should have. And if you have chosen your goal, pursue it with passion. Work as long as you can and as long as you love your work.

Robert Healey, 102

British army veteran, electrician and steelworker; Cardiff, Wales
In the second world war, I was at Dunkirk … there are some things in life you can’t forget and that are difficult to speak of, but my theory is to be happy, as happy as can be. Worrying upsets the mind and it upsets the body – my advice is not to worry about anything.
Robert Healey died on 20 December 2022. He is survived by two children, a stepdaughter, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Wendy Binns, 100

Homemaker; Surrey, England
My mother was deaf, and I helped her look after the family. But I didn’t mind – it taught me to be patient. The other day, I was asked my secret to a long and happy life. I think it’s being good, faithful, interesting and doing the things you love, which I certainly have.

Tom Hennessy, 100

RAF pilot, teacher and workshop leader; Ontario, Canada

 Photograph: Derek Shapton/The Guardian

My wife used to ask me: “How do you sleep at night when you’re a fighter pilot?” Eventually you get through it, if you can talk to people. As you get older, you learn what you don’t know. I think it’s made me more respectful of listening to people and letting them tell their story. That’s what’s important.

Leona Rothfeld, 103

Factory owner, bookkeeper and office worker; New York, US
When my twin brother had his barmitzvah, I should have had mine. But, years ago, women weren’t allowed. When I reached 103, he said: “If you take away the zero, you’re only 13.” At 103, I had the honour of coming of age. Nothing is the same as it was. You experience things in different ways. It’s part of living to go along with whatever is available at the time.

Willard ‘Wink’ Lamb, 100

US army veteran, longshoreman, carpenter and competitive swimmer; Washington, US
I’ve got 25lb-worth of swimming medals. I bought a little basket and when I put all my medals in, it’s so heavy – 25lb is heavier than you think! Being active – and of course that includes swimming – that’s the least you can do to feel like you’re living.

Ben Hellman, 103

US navy veteran and New York police department captain; New York, US
I believe long life is a matter of genes more than anything. One brother lived to 107, my father lived to ninetysomething and other brothers lived to 99. We had good Litvak [Lithuanian Jewish] stock. I was married to my wife for 60-plus years. I get asked the secret to this all the time – it’s mutual respect, love and affection.

Thelma Pickering Simmons, 100

Factory worker, social services worker and senior services volunteer; Utah, US
When I was young, there would be four girls in one bed. If we wanted to turn over, we would say, “Turn!”, and everyone would turn together. My parents were very poor, but I always thought: “I’m lucky to have such good parents.” There is no secret – I’ve always been a happy person. I’m not a complainer. I just enjoy life.

Connie Evans, 101

Auxiliary Territorial Service veteran, clerk and school assistant; London, England
When I was young, there wasn’t a lot of money coming into our house, and if we ran errands for someone, there were certain people we weren’t allowed to take money from – not so much as a farthing. Money is needed at times, but the main word is help, because help is always needed.

Phyllis Rowland, 100

Dressmaker and machinist; Surrey, England

 Photograph: Harry Borden/The Guardian

In the air raids in the East End of London, we used to say: “To hell with Hitler, he’s not going to alter what we want to do.” So we lived our lives the way we wanted to and took things as they came. Just always try to do the best you can – that’s all there is to it.

Charles Stonell, 100

RAF groundcrew technician and coppersmith; Yorkshire, England
Constantly being proud and celebrating the lives of my family and loved ones has helped me live a long, healthy and happy life. My secret to a long life is to eat and drink well – it helps me feel grounded. I won’t say anything else though, as it’s a secret.

Emma Wright, 100

Typist and school meal supervisor; London, England
I’ve enjoyed travelling abroad on holiday with my friends and am always up for an adventure. I flew to Australia on my own when I was 80. My favourite holiday destination is the party island of Ibiza. Always follow your dreams – I regret not learning to dance.

Marjorie Woolley, 100

Barmaid and homemaker; Coventry, England
I was a barmaid in a pub called the Hare and Hound, where I met my husband, Reginald. My wedding day was the best day of my life. If you have an argument, make up before going to bed. Always be kind. Drink port or sherry – my favourite tipple is sherry. Have a good, healthy diet and be happy.

Juliet Fuirer, 100

British army medical translator; Surrey, England
[During the war at Bletchley Park] home was a barrack hut that housed about 30 bunks – it was a real competition to get a bunk as close to the heat as possible. I didn’t complain. I was honoured to be doing such important work for my country. My advice for the younger generation is just to be yourself.

Brenda Milner, 104

Neuropsychologist and professor of psychology; Montreal, Canada
It’s important to follow what you’re interested in. I was good at languages, and my school wanted me to go on to the arts – probably my mother too – but I insisted on doing science. I believe in being ambitious and striving, that’s my nature. It’s very important, especially for women. You have to be competitive.

Mary Jacob, 108

Nurse, veterinary nurse and Red Cross volunteer; Surrey, England

 Photograph: Harry Borden/The Guardian

What I’ve learned is that most people are very kind. Actually, I’ve never, ever come across an awful one. I would advise people, as they’re getting older, not to be too careful … don’t say: “Oh, I’m 100, I can’t do that.” Just go and do it.

Alex Pelican, 100

Company director; Essex, England
Always keep your mind open to new ideas, read widely so you understand different points of view, and think about how things could be better. Don’t accept the status quo just because it’s what everyone is doing. Take the time to allow intelligent answers to come to the front, rather than rushing to solutions.

Robert Holt, 105

Psychology professor and researcher; Massachusetts, US
I don’t always remember well, but I do remember that I’ve been concerned about climate change for many years. My wife paid a great deal of attention and stayed with the things I was involved in – I’m so grateful she is here. Singing has also been a great joy of my life – it’s wonderful to have someone to sing with.

Pearl Margaret Kozak, 100

Fashion retail worker; Wiltshire, England
Music has been enormously important to me, right from my younger days. I had wonderful friends from Jamaica, and we used to go to the Proms – we’d take a cushion and sit right up in the gods. Looking back, I’ve had a happy life and happy travels. It’s so important to see how other people live.

Robert Witherspoon Miller, 104

Chemist; Tennessee, US
Normally, I walk a mile before breakfast. Last year, I managed to walk 848 miles. I’m looking at pictures of the golden wedding anniversaries of my grandparents, my parents, my own and my daughter’s – that’s something like 200 years of happy marriage. Don’t be too hard-nosed, look at things through the other person’s eyes, and see if there’s some way you can get together.

Ruby ‘Win’ Winifred Martin, 101

Air Ministry administrator and secretary; Somerset, England
I’m still driving, and everybody says “You’re amazing!” If I am, it’s because I get help and support from friends and family and neighbours. If I say something silly, they’ll say: “We had better get her booked in!” And I say: “Not on my life!” We always have a good laugh. Banter – that’s what keeps you going.

Marjorie Steel, 100

Factory worker and homemaker; Renfrewshire, Scotland
Until six months ago, I lived alone in a four-bedroom house. I had some cleaners, but I still did the dusting. Keeping going and active, that’s the secret. And I didn’t have a car, I walked. Life today is a little faster, but if you don’t have a car, you have to make the effort.

Cedric Vallint, 100

Port, British Rail and supermarket worker; Surrey, England

 Photograph: Harry Borden/The Guardian

I do enjoy a good rooting-tooting cowboy film. I’ve never been to the US, but I love to travel. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Germany, Austria, Australia and India. Smile and be kind to others, take every opportunity life gives you, and look after your health. Take time to enjoy the simple things, because life is short.

Betty Stride, 100

Carer; Somerset, England
I was brought up to look out for myself and to help others. Make sure to behave yourself and to look after family and friends. Listen to what others have to say. Every night I have a small glass of Baileys before bed. I have done so for many years – I call it my medicine.

Joan Standen, 100

Shop assistant and Post Office engineer; Kent, England
So many people in the world are so much worse off. You see these poor souls sleeping rough and they have no hope. So if you’ve got help, you’re very fortunate. The main thing is to be kind, particularly to people who are worse off than you.

Michael Hathorn, 100

South African air force veteran and medical doctor; London, England
I stuck to all of the dos and don’ts for a healthy life – I do smoke a pipe, but do not inhale the smoke. I attribute my longevity to pure luck: I was not killed in the second world war, had no traffic accidents and am lucky to have the NHS to look after me. I would advise persevering at what interests you.

Maurine Kornfeld, 101

Social worker and competitive swimmer; California, US
I usually swim about five days a week. It would have been nice to have done that when I was younger, but girls weren’t much into athletic endeavours then – it was a different culture. I think we don’t do enough listening. People aren’t very tolerant – they’re somewhat mystified and antagonistic to views that aren’t their own.

Constance Bretscher, 102

Music teacher; Indiana, US
I can’t play piano like I did, but I have four concert pieces memorised, and I play them every day. My husband and I were nearly 80 when we got married. You have to appreciate what you have and throw yourself into it – I was always out for a good time and, lo and behold, so was he.

Jean March, 101

Shorthand typist; Devon, England
It’s hard to say how old I feel, because I’m young at heart – I describe myself as young, because that’s how I want to be. I’m quite happy with my life; I’ve done the best I can in my life and my work. People should always do the best they can, that’s all that you can do.

Stella Armour, 103

Caterer and housekeeper; Tunapuna-Piarco, Trinidad and Tobago

 Photograph: Kelly-Ann Bobb/The Guardian

Whatever comes, take it easy – don’t fuss. My advice for the younger generations? Honour your mother and father, trust God and don’t fight for riches.

Myra Reavley, 101

Accountant; Durham, England
I try to laugh instead of worrying. I put on a brave face. I love parties to make me laugh: the more people, the merrier. I danced until I was 98 – when I stopped dancing, the world stopped dancing. Be good and respectful, but enjoy yourself. Try to be sensible. Have your say, but with discretion. Get cracking!

Jessie Breckenridge, 101

Civil servant; London, England
Keeping healthy was bred into me. Both my parents were very active later in life, and I was an only child so I got all the attention. I always listen to people who have a problem. When they come to me, I always try to help. I’m Scottish and I think it’s my Scottish approach – very friendly.

Nina Adey, 101

Secretary and headmistress; Vale of Glamorgan, Wales
I like going to places – not just seaside resorts – where something interesting is going on. I’ve always tried to talk to people and understand them, not just think: “You’ve got to be like me.” I want to know what their life is like. I’d advise the occasional glass of lager and supporting Wolverhampton Wanderers – up the Wolves!

Phyllis Hales, 100

Secretary; London, England
It is important to keep active both in body and mind. I always make a point of going to the dining rooms for my meals – that keeps me active. I also attend exercise classes, which are held six mornings a week. Don’t be greedy. Some people only think of themselves, and that’s not a nice trait.

Winnie Parker, 109

Singer, cashier and usher; Oxfordshire, England
Keep yourself happy. I put my pearls on every day and enjoy dressing up. Singing makes me happy too – and a bacon sandwich every morning.

Bill Morris, 102

RAF veteran, insurance and education worker; Oxfordshire, England
I’d say not to worry, but that’s just a presence in some people. Some people never worry about anything. I wasn’t that sort, but one learns to work with things or live with them. Some people, you’ll learn as you go, are nasty pieces of work. Shrug them off and get on with those you do like.

Marie Curran, 102

Homemaker; Pennsylvania, USA
I was happiest the day I met my husband and the day I married him. My greatest achievements were the day my husband asked me to marry him, and our eight children. Enjoy one another’s company. Go on trips with those you love as often as you can. Go when you can, where you can, while you can.

George Dunn, 100

RAF bomber command veteran and removals company manager; East Sussex, England

 Photograph: Harry Borden/The Guardian

One never thinks about turning 100, except when you start to get near it. I’ve lived a good life and kept myself free of any sort of trouble. Generally, if you try to be kind to people, you’ll be on the road to a good life.

Jean Jackman, 100

Shorthand typist; Dorset, England
I’ve never been a worrier. If there’s a problem you can do something about, get on and do it. If you can’t, don’t worry about it. I have five great-grandsons. I tell them to always be kind to one another, never do anything to hurt anyone – and I have five beautifully behaved, kind boys.

Ken Cope, 102

RAF veteran, stock controller and clerical assistant; Somerset, England
I tell most people that my secret to a long life is to keep breathing! For a happy life, keep friendly with most people. Always keep occupied. I enjoyed travel and have been to most places on the continent – although I wouldn’t advocate visiting particularly hot countries.

Angus Hamilton, 100

Royal Canadian Air Force radar operator and university lecturer; New Brunswick, Canada
Choose your ancestors well, belong to a warm and caring family, have a sense of purpose – something you want to do when you get up – and eat nutritiously. Keep your social life in good order, maintaining and establishing friendships with people you enjoy being with. Love, work, laugh – and wear a hat.

Jean Dyet, 101

Medical administrator; Queensland, Australia
I’ve done yoga all my life. I can’t stand up to do it these days, but I lie on my bed and do it by moving around – legs in the air, right up there! Take each day at a time. If you have an unhappy day today, make sure you have a happy day tomorrow.

Constance Ireland, 101

Clerk, Auxiliary Territorial Service veteran and fashion retail worker; North Yorkshire, England
I was engaged to be married to a childhood sweetheart and, with my wedding dress ready in the wardrobe, I received news that he was missing in action. I was devastated and broken-hearted, but we had to be resilient as we were still at war. Sometimes the best lessons and new opportunities come from going through difficulties.

Violet Joan Parr, 100

Royal Air Force driver and fashion retail worker; Somerset, England
In the war I thought I picked up a German spy. I distracted him, then hit him over the head with a spanner. I found out later he was not a spy – he was on our side! Always enjoy the outside, even if it is raining. Have good humour in the family, that’s how I was born.

Irene Muggeridge, 104

Clerical assistant; London, England
I loved ballroom dancing, it helps keep you fit. I love music. If my legs were better, I would be up dancing now. Try to be as happy as possible and don’t let things get you down too much. I never regretted anything I did when raising my sons. Dance, enjoy life, be proud of your family.


"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams