Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Perfect Health Is Merely the Slowest Way to Die; in the Latest Piece in His Series on Extraordinary UNPHOTOSHOPPED Images, Our Columnist Looks at the Many and Varied Secrets to a Long Life

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Perfect Health Is Merely the Slowest Way to Die; in the Latest Piece in His Series on Extraordinary UNPHOTOSHOPPED Images, Our Columnist Looks at the Many and Varied Secrets to a Long Life

Article excerpt

Byline: Charles Saatchi The Naked Eye

THE thought of becoming a centenarian is not necessarily a pleasant one. With prospects of physical and mental decline, you will also live to bear witness to many of your family and friends dying around you.

But former postman Jiroemon Kimura, born in Japan on April 19, 1897, celebrated his 116th and final birthday this year sitting up watching TV and appeared delighted to be named the world's oldest person by Guinness World Records. However, China challenged this claim and felt that the honour belonged to Luo Meizhen, photographed here, who was 127 years old when she died in June. Despite Ms Meizhen possessing an ID card, which certified that she was born in 1885, she did not have a birth certificate, and so couldn't officially be crowned the world's oldest person.

With 12,000 centenarians in the UK alone and an estimated 316,600 living worldwide, people seeking very long lives are desperate to discover the clues to their hardiness. In Secrets To Living A Long Life From Centenarians, Samuel Ball, at 102 years old, revealed that he believes to live long, you need to enjoy life's pleasures, "have a good wife, two Scotches a night, and be easygoing".

In 1921, psychologist Lewis Terman began The Longevity Project, which would outlive him and last eight decades. He selected promising young children as his subjects and followed them into adulthood, discovering that a high IQ doesn't play a significant role in living a lengthy life. Rather he found that persistence, stubbornness and the ability to navigate life's challenges are a better indication of those destined for an extended lifespan, revealed even from an early age.

The study also learned that women who are sexually satisfied and climax more frequently often have higher life expectancy than those who don't. It is certainly the case that 85 per cent of centenarians are female.

A straightforward view came from Besse Cooper, who at 116 told people to simply "mind your own business and don't eat junk food". Jean Calmect, who died in 1997 at 122, never let her age get in the way of doing whatever she wanted. She took up fencing at 85, rode her bicycle till she was 100, and didn't give up smoking till she was 117.

Vivian Henscheke, 109, also smoked for most of her life, and "never exercised a single day and ate whatever she wanted", according to her daughter, 86. Cheerful Bel Kaufman revealed at 101 that "laughter keeps you healthy. You can survive by seeing humour in everything. Thumb your nose at sadness; turn the tables on tragedy."

Bel's advice was taken to heart by Oxford University, whose research study decreed that laughing really is good for your health. Happy outbursts of laughter encourage the human body to release endorphins which stimulate an exaggerated physical state of euphoria.

But be warned: laughter can also kill you. Instances of laughing to death have been recorded from Ancient Greece to the 21st century, with victims suffering muscle failure, seizures and cardiac arrest.

In 1975 Alex Mitchell died whilst watching the "Kung Fu Kapers" episode of The Goodies. Laughing uncontrollably for 25 minutes, he died from a heart attack. Following his death, his wife Nessie sent the trio of comedians, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden and Bill Oddie, a letter to thank them for making his dying moments so happy.

More recently, in 2003 ice-cream salesman Damnoen Saen-um died while laughing in his sleep. …

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