About a year ago, I met a 95-year-old widow who was still mowing her yard, driving her car to places near her home, and teaching a Bible class for seniors at her church. We laughed as she told people that her birthday gift from friends was a new mower. Amazed at her agility and quick whit, I asked what attributed to her health. With decided assurance, she responded, “Clean living.”
Last week I was introduced to a woman and was shocked to learn that she would be 100 years old her next birthday. To me, her face gave the appearance of someone about 80 years old. Her walking was in no way impaired, and she was as articulate as any 40-year-old. Her conversation with others revealed that she enjoyed a vigorous life and had significant friendships. To say I was impressed is an understatement.
In the past few days, I’ve thought much about these women and the obstacles they have overcome to reach this milestone. Genealogy in Time magazine reports that about 1 in 6,000 people live to be 100 years old, and of the centenarians, 80% are widows. But few people actually experience the vitality of these two women.
Think of the phenomenal changes they have seen. They survived in a time when infant mortality rates were high. Women couldn’t even vote until 1920. They have lived through the Great Depression and numerous wars, including two world wars. When they were young, most homes, at least in rural America, did not have indoor plumbing, and only the wealthy could afford a washing machine, car, or camera. Much of our modern technology that we take for granted was in its infancy.
The two women have seen the inauguration of 17 presidents, the growth of the airline industry, medical advances beyond their imaginations, and men walking on the moon. Who would have believed in 1916 that people would watch television and videos, play games, text friends oceans away, listen to music, take high-resolution photos, track blood pressure, and find directions to the nearest restaurant with a telephone? And that telephone would fit in a pocket. Phenomenal!
While the women have seen amazing advancements, I wonder what disappointments, regrets, or deep sorrows they experienced? How did they face unexpected changes? What were their most satisfying achievements and what brought them great joy? Did they have dreams that were never fulfilled? What are their secrets for a long, healthy life? Do they have gems of wisdom to give us in helping others live to be 100 years old?
Researchers have interviewed many centenarians and report that several things contribute to people living long, vibrant lives: a positive attitude, diet, exercise, faith, clean living, a loving family, and genetics. We can do little about our genetics, but the other things are within our control.
None of us know how long we will live. The Psalmist David said, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16, NIV). This means that our Creator already knows the length of our time on this planet. We have not been promised a life without pain or sorry. The fact that we are widows attests to this. But we can determine to live every moment to its fullest. And we can resolve to do everything within our power to live healthy lives. Besides exercise, a good diet, loving relationships, and a positive attitude, a vibrant faith in a God who loves us and gave His Son for us is a good foundation for a fulfilled life.
I love the promise that God gave in Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”