February 6, 2010

AUSTRALIA: Always look on the bright side, say active centenarians

. SYDNEY, NSW / The Sydney Morning Herald / Lifestyle / Wellbeing / February 6, 2010 By Jessica Mahar RUTH RICHARDS is turning 104 in a fortnight, but said she doesn't feel it. And while she has no amazing secret for her longevity, she puts it down to having a happy, fulfilled life. ''I have been content with my life, it hasn't been a fabulous one or an exciting one, but it's been a contented one,'' she said. ''What is age? It's just about keeping yourself healthy. I don't think about age very much.'' If you wish to live until you're 100, you'll need a positive outlook, to do regular physical activity and to remain social. Gold medallist ... Australia's 100-year-old Ruth Frith in action during the Women's 75 years and over shot put final. Illustrative photo October 2009. Source: The Daily Telegraph An ongoing study found despite centenarians - people living to 100 and beyond - coping through hardships, most lived optimistically and worry-free. Robyn Richmond, from the University of NSW's school of public health and community medicine, is leading the Australian Centenarian Study to discover what makes people over 100 tick. ''It's estimated that there will be 12,000 centenarians in 2020, it's the fastest growing age segment of the population,'' she said. Professor Richmond found 60 per cent of the people surveyed were physically active, with most doing exercises everyday. Eye disease was common but only 20 per cent had had heart disease, 20 per cent had cerebrovascular disease and stroke, 28 per cent had osteoporosis and 21 per cent had dementia. ''One of our major findings … was that no centenarians had a diagnosis of dementia or osteoporosis before the age of 80,'' Professor Richmond said. ''These people have had to deal with life stress, loved ones who have died, awful wars, famine and the Great Depression, [but] what we've found in our study is that centenarians are highly resilient, highly optimistic and they had low levels of neuroticism, anxiety and depression.'' Another important aspect was being social. ''Seventy per cent believed that their social connectedness contributed to their health and longevity,'' Professor Richmond said. Both Ms Richards and Francis Ward, 100, live at the Chatswood Community Nursing Home. They are two of the almost 200 centenarians interviewed so far. Mr Ward said his whole life has been active - from boxing to riding trackwork on racehorses to ''miles and miles'' of walking and running. ''I can remember my life from the age of five,'' he said. ''I've done everything but the kitchen sink. I'm so active I don't feel old at all.'' [rc] Copyright © 2010. Fairfax Digital