Flip on the television, walk down the supplements aisle at your local grocery store, or check out the self-help book selection on Amazon, and one fact will become abundantly clear: People are obsessed with finding the secrets to longevity, health, and happiness.
While many American adults look to the latest diet fad, fitness trend, or health guru for answers, one valuable resource too often goes overlooked. Centenarians, individuals who have lived for 100 or more years, have lived the longest, experienced the most, and know what it takes to live a long, meaningful life.
These individuals may not be able to point you in the direction of the Fountain of Youth, but when asked about how to achieve happiness and longevity, they can serve as a wellspring of valuable information. In a recent national survey of centenarians commissioned by Holiday Retirement, these individuals shared a perspective that only they can offer on family and marriage, habits for longevity, personal finance, and the keys to happiness.
Here are just a few of their nuggets of wisdom.
1. Relish family time.
Although the makeup of the average American family may look decidedly different than it did when centenarians raised their children, one thing remains the same: centenarians' focus on quality family time. In fact, they overwhelmingly attribute their health and happiness to spending time with their families. If offered the opportunity to do it all over again, more than one-third said they would spend more time with loved ones. When asked what advice they have for parents today, one in three centenarians said spend more time with your kids.
2. Make it work.
As a generation that has seen divorce rates skyrocket and marriage rates plummet in the last 100 years, centenarians have a unique perspective on what it takes to build a lasting partnership. According to 22 percent of survey participants, it takes saying three simple words, "I love you," more often.
Seemingly impossible in today's information age, centenarians also recommend that couples take the time to slow down and focus on each other. Nearly one-third of centenarians encourage couples to make a stronger effort to communicate and 22 percent say partners should spend more time together. One centenarian put it simply: "Make it work."
3. Start saving. Today.
Centenarians' advice is seemingly evident when it comes to personal finance: Spend less and save more. Although this may seem like obvious guidance, particularly coming from the generation that has lived through the Great Depression, both World Wars, and the Great Recession, studies have shown that many Americans have not followed it. In fact, a recent survey of American adults revealed that more than two-thirds are not saving enough for retirement.
According to centenarians, putting off for tomorrow what you can do today might end up being your biggest regret. Of the surveyed centenarians, 1 in 4 said they were not financially prepared to live as long as they have, and 24 percent of survey participants listed their biggest financial regret as not saving from an earlier age. When asked what they feel today's adults will most regret, 15 percent said spending too much money, while 13 percent said not saving enough.
4. Be active.
Though some may argue that living decades past the average American life span is a product of chance, centenarians would argue that there is some strategy involved. When asked why they lived so long, centenarians' answers ranged from not drinking at all to drinking all the good whiskey they could get, and from a dedication to spirituality to staying ornery and stubborn.
These contrasts aside, one point centenarians agree on is the importance of being fit. Among surveyed centenarians, the most cited habit for longevity was exercise and staying active.
There is no magic pill for longevity. Instead, what these centenarians reinforce is that some of the secrets to wellbeing and lifelong happiness are the simple truths that we have always known -- loving relationships, financial stability, and a commitment to personal health.
In a recently conducted survey of its residents 100 years old and older, Holiday Retirement compiled "100 Years of Wisdom: The Perspective of Centenarians." Find your copy of the report at 100yearsofwisdom.com.