To get to be 100 years or older requires exercise, social connectedness, and good sleep, according to a majority of centennarians polled in UnitedHealthcare’s 100@100 Survey, 2012 Report of Findings.

The key findings of this fascinating survey are that:

  • Centenarians have better eating and sleeping habits than Boomers.
  • One-half of centenarians regularly exercise. The most common forms of exercise are walking or hiking, muscle strengthening, gardening, indoor cardio exercise, exercise classes, and yoga/Tai Chi or other mind/body/spirit forms.
  • Social networks bolster health, with most old-old people communicating with family or friends nearly every day And, laughter is a vitamin, with most saying they giggle or laugh on a daily basis.
  • Food is health, with 80% of over-100s saying they eat balanced meals nearly daily. Prayer and spiritual activity also bolster centenarians’ vitality.
Physical health, over emotional or spiritual health, is the most important thing to maintain, centenarians say…and it’s also the most difficult of the 3 to maintain. The centenarians also read to keep the mind sharp, and one-third do puzzzles like crosswords or word challenges like Sudoku. 27% keep a diary or write letters, fiction or poetry.
One in four centenarians has Internet access, which is double the percent from 2011.  Most use the Internet to look at photos and do email. 44% search for information and 32% get news and watch movies online.
The use of social media is limited among centenarians at 1 in 8. 16% research health conditions online.
Nearly all Boomers have Internet access (90%). Two-thirds using social media. 72% reseearch health conditions online.

UHC polled 100 centenarians (turning 100 this year or older) and 300 Boomers (50-55) by telephone in April and May 2012.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: That virtually all Boomers have Internet access provides a platform for channeling health information and services to them, which UnitedHealthcare and other health plans and providers can leverage to improve medication adherence and health@home. That even 1 in 4 of the oldest Americans have Internet access, with a handful seeking health information online, is also an encouraging finding.

95% of centenarians say they’re retired; their average age at retirement was 68..The most common reason centenarians retired because they thought “it was time.” The most common reason Boomers have retired is due to health problems: 20% of Boomers say they’re retired, and did so at the age of 45.

There is a handful of lessons to learn from these wise centenarians about how to live a long, healthy life: have a resilient social network, whether online or off, of family and friends; eat good and balanced meals; keep an active mind and, most importantly, an active physical body.

We cannot know for sure whether the 20% of Boomers who retired around the age of 45 lived by these lifestyles.

Whatever their answer, we all have choices to make every day on these behaviors

Long may you, and I, live by these precepts.