Magazine article Sunset

How to Live to 100

Magazine article Sunset

How to Live to 100

Article excerpt

ONE HUNDRED IS THE NEW 70. COULD IT BE THAT WESTERN CULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT PROLONG LIFE?

This story started out simply enough, with a quest: Uncover the secret to why people are living longer in the West, particularly in California, which has more centenarians than any other state. How much of it is genetics? How much is lifestyle? The debate continues. But we did notice some common traits in those we talked to. They are happy. They lived "slow," and took their time doing things. They walked, not drove, to school and work. They grew up on farms. They grew vegetables. They lived among walnut orchards, avocado trees, and strawberry plants. They are social. They read and listen to music. So maybe, just maybe, going back to our roots, back to the earth, back to our community-a lifestyle that the West not only promotes but also leads in-is the secret. Our motto for long life? Live in the West, where the sun shines longer. Know your neighbors. Commune. Eat from the earth. Find a passion. Be happy. Read on for some suggestions on how to attempt to add a few years to your life.

99

Ruth Bancroft, Walnut Creek, CA

Born: September 2,1908

A LONG LIFE IN SHORT The first hint of Bancroft's gardening passion came at a young age in Berkeley. "I used to grab for flowers while my mother was strolling me in my carriage. They calmed me;" Later, she'd walk to neighbor Sydney Mitchell, who gave her irises. She enrolled in Berkeley's architecture school, "one of only three women." After marrying and moving to her husband's family's Mt. Diablo Fruit Farm (400 acres) in Walnut Creek, she indulged her passion, planning the space and taking interest in droughttolerant plants. "I heard about the need to conserve water, and succulents seemed the way to go."

PRE-WORLD WAR n "I took a year to travel through Europe and visit gardens. Hitler was beginning to worry people. I remember eating pizza in Naples and writing home about it. No one had heard of it."

PHILOSOPHY ON

Staying active: "I actively gardened until I lost my balance." She also attends the San Francisco Opera and the California Symphony in Walnut Creek.

State of mind: "It's important that you like what you're doing."

Making it to 100: "I call gardening the job I liked. I was out there all day, in the sun. Living in California helped because we have more outdoors time."

A succulent life: Ruth Bancroft credits gardening in the California sun for helping her reach the century mark. …

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