by Maria Schulz
The other day, I stumbled across this story about the oldest living woman (now 116 years old) and her secrets to a long and happy life.
In the interview, Misao Okawa said that she was widowed in 1931 (83 years ago) and raised her two small children, photographed sitting beside her. Her son and daughter are now 94 and 92. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren were also there beside her. Mrs Okawa became the world’s oldest person after the death of a 116-year-old Japanese man named Jiroemon Kimura.
So what does this 116 year-old lady credit for her extraordinary age? Two things: sleep and sushi.
Wait a second…that’s it?
While I’m really happy for her, I am kind of disappointed. I was hoping her secrets to a long life would include things that could make me say, “Hey! I have a shot at living into my second century!” In that world, she would have said that the secrets to a long life include:
- Five hours of sleep a night
- The occasional pitcher of Sangria
- Tacos with extra sour cream
- Brownies with walnuts
- Couch surfing
- 10+ hours of TV a day
- Bi-monthly screenings of The Great Escape
- Chocolate chip cookies
- A strict ban on tofu
- Mad Men Marathons
- Late night runs to White Castle
- Swearing off the gym
- Living with dogs…lots of dogs
- Screaming, laughing, happy kids
- Reruns of The Rockford Files
- Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey
- Singing all the words to the Grease soundtrack, loudly
- Laughing at inappropriate times, like in the principal’s office and during funerals
- Seeing a Broadway show at least 12 times a year
- Twinkees and/or yodels
At least sushi and sleep isn’t a goal that’s completely unattainable. It’s not like she said, “eat hand-caught baby tiger shark and climb Mount Everest.” I’m also glad she didn’t say other things, such as:
“I walk 80,000 steps a day. Want to see my pedometer?”
“The secret to a long life is being born skinny.”
“All you have to do to live forever is give yourself enemas 3 x a week.”
“Watch Oprah every day, twice a day if possible.”
“Train for 6 triathlons a year.”
“Run, Forrest, run.”
“Have a giving heart.”
“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your 116+ year life.”
“Never eat chocolate.”
“The first thing you should do? Be born Japanese.”
My family has had its share of long-lived people, although none of them broke the 100-year-mark. My great-great grandfather was the first contender, and at 88 years old he looked like a 60 year old man. We know this because when he disappeared, my grandmother called the police to file a missing persons report.
“We’ve got a John Doe who was hit by a trolley car,” the cop told her. “But he can’t be in his eighties. He looks like he’s about 60.”
“I’ll be right there,” my grandmother replied.
Yes, it was him, and that was a real shame. He could’ve been interviewed when he reached 100, and when asked what his secret to a long life was, he could’ve replied: “staying off the trolley tracks.”
It turns out that his granddaughter (who also happened to be my grandmother) came closest to breaking 100, passing away just a few months shy of 98 years old. This is the same woman who told us that she would, in fact, never die. At first, we just laughed because who can say that they will never die? But after 15 years or so of one illness after another with her coming out alive on the other side, we thought we finally found a winner.
If my grandmother could’ve been a contestant on Survivor, she would’ve annihilated every one else and been crowned the Survivor to beat all Survivors. So here are her secrets to a long and happy life:
- Apple pie
- Tab and/or Fresca
- Sweet & Low
- Ricotta pies
- The Chicken Dance
- Laughing at inappropriate times, like when called to the principal’s office or at funerals
- Cheese-less pizza
- Free government cheese, which she gave to us, because she hated cheese
- Family and friends
- Joining her local Senior Citizens club
- Spending no more than the $10 roll of quarters they gave her on the bus to Atlantic City
- Burger King
- Making gravy
- Telling my father to turn off the movie projector when a dirty scene came on, and throwing all the kids out of the room
- Giving up her driver’s license at the age of 70 and getting a proclamation from the Department of Motor Vehicles
- Faithfully tuning in to Mannix, Columbo, MacMillan & Wife, and of course, The Rockford Files
- Laughing uncontrollably at Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts
- Doing “this little piggy” on her grandchildren’s hands, and eventually, on her great-grandchildren’s hands too
- Honey glazed Ham
- Telling stories
- Watching Dinah Shore and Mike Douglas
- Jiffy pop and a movie with Carey Grant and/or Jimmy Stewart
- Carvel’s Flying Saucers
My grandmother didn’t break 100 years, but who knows? Maybe there’s hope for me yet.
My diabetic grandmother would have saved up all her cheats for the week so she could enjoy this dish. As for me, I think I’d use a little bit of brown sugar and honey in place of the corn syrup, like one reviewer suggested.
So, Hungry Lifers…what are your secrets to a long and happy life? Do you know how to make sushi? What’s the most annoying advice you’ve ever heard about living forever? Please leave a comment and let us all know. Thanks!