Tales From A Hungry Life

April 16, 2014

Secrets to a Long Life

by Maria Schulz


The secret

The secret

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.

You go, girl

You go, girl

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:

Always a great escape

Always a great escape

  1. Five hours of sleep a night
  2. The occasional pitcher of Sangria
  3. Tacos with extra sour cream
  4. Brownies with walnuts
  5. Couch surfing
  6. 10+ hours of TV a day
  7. Bi-monthly screenings of The Great Escape
  8. Chocolate chip cookies
  9. A strict ban on tofu
  10. Mad Men Marathons
  11. Late night runs to White Castle
  12. Swearing off the gym
  13. Living with dogs…lots of dogs
  14. Screaming, laughing, happy kids
  15. Reruns of The Rockford Files
  16. Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey
  17. Lasagna
  18. Singing all the words to the Grease soundtrack, loudly
  19. Laughing at inappropriate times, like in the principal’s office and during funerals
  20. Seeing a Broadway show at least 12 times a year
  21. Twinkees and/or yodels
So good they brought 'em back

So good they brought ’em back

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:

  1. Apple pie
  2. Tab and/or Fresca
  3. Sweet & Low
  4. Ricotta pies
  5. The Chicken Dance
  6. Laughing at inappropriate times, like when called to the principal’s office or at funerals
  7. Cheese-less pizza
  8. Free government cheese, which she gave to us, because she hated cheese
  9. Family and friends
  10. Joining her local Senior Citizens club
  11. Spending no more than the $10 roll of quarters they gave her on the bus to Atlantic City
  12. Sunbathing
  13. Burger King
  14. Cleaning
  15. Making gravy
  16. Telling my father to turn off the movie projector when a dirty scene came on, and throwing all the kids out of the room
  17. Giving up her driver’s license at the age of 70 and getting a proclamation from the Department of Motor Vehicles
  18. Faithfully tuning in to Mannix, Columbo, MacMillan & Wife, and of course, The Rockford Files
  19. Laughing uncontrollably at Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts
  20. Doing “this little piggy” on her grandchildren’s hands, and eventually, on her great-grandchildren’s hands too
  21. Honey glazed Ham
  22. Telling stories
  23. Watching Dinah Shore and Mike Douglas
  24. Jiffy pop and a movie with Carey Grant and/or Jimmy Stewart
  25. Carvel’s Flying Saucers

My grandmother didn’t break 100 years, but who knows? Maybe there’s hope for me yet.


Perfect for Easter

Perfect for Easter


Honey-Glazed Ham


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!



  1. Again, Maria, you crack me up! My longest living relative that I know of is my Polish grandmother, Stephania, a.k.a. Stella. She lived to be 97 years old. She was a Greek Tragedy all wrapped up in a 56″ frame. She was clinically depressed since 1929, when my grandfather was killed in an automobile accident. What were the chances of that happening when only 8 people owned cars…but they located him. That laid the foundation for next 54 years of daily crying, depraved indifference to anyone else’s needs, and a lifetime of chronic indigestion. For relief of the harsh realities of life, she would attend local wakes. Not that she knew the deceased or even cared. It was just a place to go where she felt at home. “A place where everyone knows your name.” I could go on, but then it will get really sad. Ironic how life goes on. My personal goal is to live my life until I die, maybe Stella taught me that. God Bless you Baba.

    Comment by Lorraine Dobnack-Tucci — April 16, 2014 @ 2:39 pm | Reply

    • Lorraine, you crack me up too! Stella sure sounds like she knew how to have a good time. I’d like to say thanks to Stella for the reminding me to live my life to the fullest (and thanks for reading my crazy posts).

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — April 16, 2014 @ 8:39 pm | Reply

  2. The oldest person to live in my family was my Aunt Babs, She died when she was 101. God bless her she had all her faculties up till the very end, She was the Aunt who never got married. Perhaps that was the reason why she lived so long, she didn’t have any children. She was the first female executive at Equitable, I always admired her business sense and how she took care of her family. Can you believe some bank gave her a 30 year mortgage at the age of 70! She paid it off in half the time though. What I remember of your Nannie was how the Golden girls were always on TV. Love the post!

    Comment by Kathleen Lagalante — April 16, 2014 @ 3:02 pm | Reply

    • Aunt Babs sounds pretty remarkable. So was our grandmother/grandmother-in-law. I can still hear her laughing at those Golden Girls!

      Comment by talesfromahungrylife — April 16, 2014 @ 8:40 pm | Reply

  3. And my favorite piece of advice, from “30 Rock”: “Live every week like it’s Shark Week.”

    Comment by lisa — April 16, 2014 @ 8:16 pm | Reply

  4. Murder she Wrote! Lena loved Angela Lansbury. I guess the secret to a long life really is to keep moving. I ran into my old landlord who will be 66 and he has never stopped training in Marshal arts or running. He looks younger than me and is learning a Praying Mantis style of Kung Fu from an 86 year old Chinese man. So if the secret to longevity is to keep moving your body and keep challenging yourself everyday mentally and physically, I will be gone by the morning.

    Comment by Chris — April 16, 2014 @ 10:52 pm | Reply

  5. Usually I am the first to leave a comment but not this time. I am not one who really wants to live to a certain age just one that has me functioning and not wearing depends.
    The 116 year old woman looks like she smells of sushi and I guess that is what happens when you are still eating sushi at 116. I wouldn’t want to date her. That’s it. That’s my answer. I want to live as long as I don’t look like I smell like fish and some young chick doesn’t mind dating me and maybe giving a kiss goodnight..

    Comment by Bglou — April 17, 2014 @ 10:50 am | Reply

  6. Maria, this is hysterical. Thanks for the laughter. Wishing you a happy Easter filled with lots of delicious Italian and Spanish food

    Comment by Sophia — April 17, 2014 @ 9:43 pm | Reply

  7. Well Maria, my advice to living a long and happy life is not to die young and don’t be sad. What works for one is hell for another so advice can make you crazy. With my stomach eating Sushi would probably kill me, so no, no Sushi! I hate the annoying advise to live a long live, “a shot of whisky every night before I go to bed.” It usually comes from the prim and proper old ladies in their 90’s. You find out that they are on a slew of medicines that sit on their night tables along side the whisky. Finally they are found dead in bed because they took too much whisky with their pills. But they were in their 90’s! Maybe if they didn’t have the whisky that night they would have made it past 100?

    Comment by Tony Lagalante — April 22, 2014 @ 5:46 pm | Reply

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