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How did They Live Past 116

Healthy relationships contribute to long life spans

Updated: 22 December 2018

How do average people live well past 100 years of age and significantly longer with a 95 year average lifespan? Does it have anything to do with genetics, environment, habit, diet, exercise or something more or absent thereof?

First let’s examine some of the longest living centurion biographies on record. And after reviewing these biographies, we’ll connect the dots to make a correlation to their longevity lifestyle secrets.

During the 19th – late 20th Century – interviews before death relevant to lifestyle and culture to include biography and genealogy was not captured through a scientific or epidemiological process. Therefore I’ll render an opinion based on assumptions extracted from the limited amount of biographical data of deceased subjects; and references at the end of the article.

Super Centenarian – Deceased Subjects of Observation,

Jeanne Calment (21 February 1875 – 4 August 1997) she lived 122 years, 164 days, place of residence Arles, France. Jeanne Louise Calment surpassed previous Guinness Book of Record holders as the longest living confirmed human. It was said Jeanne smoked more than 2 cigarettes per day and after an operation in 1994 she weighed 99 pounds where she became dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. She attributed her long life and youthful appearance to olive oil which she used religiously in her food and on her skin. Included within her diet she drank port wine and consumed ~2 lbs of chocolate weekly. In total she outlived 329 undisputed-verified super centenarians

Sarah Knauss-Clark (24 September 1880 – 30 December 1999) she lived 119 years, 97 days, place of residence, Hollywood and Allentown, Pennsylvania. Sarah had a career as an insurance office manager and upon her marriage to Abraham Lincoln Knauss (December 19, 1878 – March 1, 1965) she spent her time as a home maker and was a skilled seamstress. Mrs. Knauss was known as an extraordinary woman that pushed the envelope of longevity. It was said, the reason for her longevity stemmed from the fact she was a very tranquil person and nothing fazed her. Also it is known that she enjoyed life because she had her health and could do what she wanted. Her interests and foods included: viewing golf tournaments, needlepoint and nibbling on chocolate turtles, cashews and potato chips. Her only child Kathryn Knauss Sullivan (November 17, 1903 – January 21, 2005) lived to be 101 and was 96 at the time of her mother’s death.

Lucy Hannah (16 July 1875 – 21 March 1993) she lived 117 years, 248 days, place of residence Born in Linden, Alabama and died in Detroit. She moved in the great migration to escape the racial tensions that were prominent of the times in the Deep South. Her parents survived slavery for which it is noted they were whipped daily until their freedom and thereafter suffered from trauma as a result of the physical and mental scars. Lucy married John Hannah in 1901 and had 8 children together. Two of her children were still living at the time of her death. The two sisters lived to be 100 years of age. And Hannah’s mother lived to the age of 99.

Marie-Louise Meileur (29 August 1880 -16 April 1998) She lived 117 years, 230 days, place of residence Kamouraska, Quebec, Canada. It is known that Marie was married twice and between the two marriages had 4 children with first husband Etienne Leclerc from 1900 and where he died in 1911. And then the super centenarian had six other children through her second marriage with Hector Meileur whom she married in 1915 until his death in 1972. She had 85 grandchildren, 80 great-grandchildren and 57 great-great- grandchildren and 4 (3 x great grandchildren). Marie’s death was the result of a blood clot.

Maria Capovilla (14 September 1889 – 27 August 2006) She lived 116 years, 347 days and was recognized by Guinness World Records during her reign as the world’s oldest living person ever in South America and the southern hemisphere in Guayaquil. Ecuador. It is also interesting to note she is also the oldest human that had a life span living within three centuries. Born as Maria Esther Heredia Lecaro; she married a military officer, Antonio Capovill after his first wife died. They had five children together, three (Hilda, 81, Irma, 80 and Anibal 78) of which were at Maria’s side prior to death. Antonio passed in 1949. She had 12 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and 2 great, great grandchildren. She enjoyed watching TV, reading and walked without the assistance of a cane, but helped by an aide prior to the day of her passing. She also never smoked or drank hard liquor.

Although home bound for the last two years of life, she shared her home with eldest daughter Hilda and son-in-law. In an interview her traditional view of men and women stated her dislike, about how women today are permitted to court men, rather than men courting women.

During 2006 near time of death Maria’s health took a turn for the worse. She could no longer read, she nearly stopped talking and no longer could walk without the assistance of two people. Just prior to her death she was able to sit comfortably in her chair and fan herself. She died just 18 days before her 117th birthday. Cause of death Pneumonia.

Tane Ikai (18 January 1879 – 12 July 1995) She lived 116 years, 175 days, place of birth Kansei, Japan. She is the only fully verified person within Asia to reach 116 years of age. She married at the age of 20 had 3 sons and one daughter. At the age of 38 she left her husband. At the age of 89 she entered a nursing home. At the age of 109 she had a stroke where she remained bed ridden in a hospital until her death. Cause of death kidney failure.

Besse Cooper (26 August 1896 – 4 December 2012) 116 years and 100 days. Besse Berry Brown-Cooper of Sullivan County, Tennessee was married to Luther Cooper and had 4 children and widowed after 39 years of marriage. Luther was 68 at the time of his death. Mrs. Cooper lived on her farm and moved into a nursing facility at the age of 105. Recently, Cooper reached her 116th birthday in August 2012, the second-oldest verified person from Tennessee and surpassing Elizabeth Bolden who died in December 2006, at the age of 116 years and 118 days. When asked what the secret to her super centurion lifespan, she stated, minding my own business working outdoors and avoiding most junk foods and ate lots of vegetables. Occupation: retired teacher. Cause of Death: Respiratory Failure.

Elizabeth Bolden (15 August 1890 – 11 December 2006) She lived 116 Years, 118 days and at the time of her death recognized by Guinness as the oldest living person. She was born in Somerville, Tennessee, the daughter of freed slaves. She had 7 children, only two of which were alive at the time of her death (Esther, 89 and Mamie 86). Elizabeth had 40 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren, 150 great-great grandchildren and 220 (3 x great grandchildren) and an amazing 75 (4 x great grandchildren). And in her final days of life she resided within a Memphis Tennessee nursing facility. Elizabeth also lived a life spanning within three centuries.

Maggie Barnes (6 March 1882 – 19 January 1998) She lived 115 years, 319 days, place of residence, Johnston County, North Carolina. She was born to a slave and married a tenant farmer. Eleven of her children preceded her in death, while 4 of her other children survived her after death. Mrs. Barnes died of a complication from a minor foot infection.

Christian Mortensen (16 August 1882 – 25 April 1998) He lived 115 years, 252 days, last place of residence San Rafael, California. Born in a village near the city of Skanderborg, Denmark, he then settled in Chicago and worked various trades: tailor, milkman, and restaurateur and factory worker. He was married 10 years, had no children and never remarried. Retiring near Galveston Bay, Texas; 28 years later it was claimed at the age of 96 he rode his bike to the Aldersly Retirement Community in San Rafael where he stayed until his death. He’s the oldest living male to date.

When asked for advice on his long life; he stated, stay away from alcohol; drink lots of water, keep a positive attitude, keep good friends and singing will help you live a long time. His diet preferences were mainly a vegetarian diet and he also drank a lot of boiled water. He smoked cigars believing if in moderation, it was not unhealthy.

In order to find out how these 10 individuals lived so long – we’ll compare environment, lifestyle, diet, behaviors and habits with the online data available. In this way we may understand what common denominators may have contributed to their long life spans.

Centenarian interview statements revealed prior to death [in bold – represents a healthy habit or behavior of moderation], were claimed by each individual to contribute to their long lives spans.

Centurion Replies,

Use olive oil religiously in foods

Red Wine



Potato chips

Drink lots of water

Mainly vegetarian

Drink boiled water

Junk foods

Hard Liquor

Rub olive oil on skin

Smoke Cigarettes and/or Cigars


Very tranquil person

Mind my own business, stress reduction

Keep a positive attitude and sense of humor

Perceived overall Good health


Ability to be mobile


Watch TV

Listen to Radio

Watch Sports




Working Outdoors

Good Family and friend relationships

Social gatherings

One has purpose in life

Interactive life

High Cancer Statisic- Environment (Reference article #11, 12, 13, 14)

California, Florida, Texas and New York (High Cancer States)

Centurions lived most of their life – on average in low cancer per Capita States

Cause of death,

Mobility loss

Blood clot


Kidney Failure


No cause listed, respiratory failure


It looks like all 10 of these individuals lived within large families; most were married and/or had large circles of various interactive social-family relationships. It also appears mobility, stress reduction and positive mood was important contributors to overall well-being. As far as their habits and diets – it appeared they moderated the good with a little bad. For the most part, their diets appeared healthy and most consumed very little if any alcohol.

Recall, 9 out of 10 of these super centenarians where female. It is a fact that women live longer than men. This has a lot to do with metabolism, genetics, diet, body weight, habits and lifestyle. What specifically separates men from women? Men are greatly driven by hormones (read importance of testosterone on men’s health, Ref #8) which tend to cause more risky behavior and mood-stress characteristics. Also when testosterone levels drop, or become unbalanced in men during the aging process, this change tends to have a significant impact on men’s health and longevity. Male hormone replacement therapy monitored by a physician can help with low testosterone production, which may help support vitality and longevity while reducing health risk.

All but one of ten centenarians lived in a statistically low cancer state(s) [excluding those that lived outside of the United States]. And all but one of the 10 was male. Christian Mortensen lived in Texas 28 years and then moved to a California nursing home at the age of 96. He lived ~48 years in a statistically high cancer state and where it appears he spent the majority of his first ~68 years of life in Skanderborg, Denmark. He lived ~116 years of age beating all other fellow men in longevity.

These centenarians show us they lived relatively balanced lifestyles. They were physically and mentally active throughout their life span; they enjoyed personal and social gatherings and relationships mostly within large circles of friends and family. And for those residing in the United States lived mostly within low statistical cancer states (Ref #11).

They lived purposeful and mobile lifestyles, had positive attitudes, maintained low levels of stress, had good sense of humor, enjoyed selfless endeavors and shared their life experiences and stories with others. They also lived life to the fullest and without the crutch of habitual vices and little need of medications.


  1. Fadem, Mitch, Dr. Health Benefits of Cigar Tobacco Cigars and Medicine. The Tobacco Leaf “ Good or Bad? About.com. http://cigars.about.com/od/legalhealthissues/a/cigarmedicine.htm
  2. Rettner, Rachael. Sweet Science: The Health Benefits of Chocolate.  LiveScience.com.  11 February 2010. http://www.livescience.com/6111-sweet-science-health-benefits-chocolate.html
  3. Wikipedia.  The Free Encyclopedia. Oldest People.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldest_people#Oldest_people_ever
  4. Woodamarc.  How these Well Known Celebrities Lived So Long. Hubpages.com. 20 August 2012. http://woodamarc.hubpages.com/_sigsinmula/hub/How-Did-These-Well-Known-Celebrities-Live-so-Long
  5. Woodamarc. Pain Depression Origins. Hubpages.com. 5 April 2010.  http://woodamarc.hubpages.com/_sigsinmula/hub/Pain-Depression-Origins
  6. Woodamarc. Alcohol Consumption Good for You? Hubpages.com.  14 November 2008. http://woodamarc.hubpages.com/_sigsinmula/hub/Alcohol-Consumption
  7. Woodard, Marc. Disease is Scientifically Linked to Genetic Engineering of Food Crops.  MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. 22 September 2018.  http://www.mirrorathlete.org/2018/09/22/disease-is-scientifically-linked-to-genetic-engineering-of-food-crops/
  8. Woodard, Marc. Low Testosterone, another Man Made Risky Fix? MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. 22 January 2012. http://www.mirrorathlete.org/2012/01/22/low-testosterone-another-man-made-risky-fix/
  9. Woodard, Marc. Learn to Embrace the Pain, Exercise and Get Fit. MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. 23 September 2011.  http://www.mirrorathlete.org/2011/09/23/learn-to-embrace-the-pain-exercise-and-get-fit/
  10. Woodard, Marc. Wisdom of Consuming Oleic Acid [Olive Oil]. MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. 23 January 2010. http://www.mirrorathlete.org/2010/01/23/mae-healthblog-wisdom-of-consuming-oleic-acid-2/
  11. Woodard, Marc. Pancreatic Cancer Statistics and Recommendations. MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. 24 November 2009. http://www.mirrorathlete.org/2009/11/24/mae-health-blog-pancreatic-cancer-statistics-and-recommendations/
  12. Woodard, Marc. Is Pancreatic Cancer on the Rise? MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. 24 October 2009. http://www.mirrorathlete.org/2009/10/24/mae-health-blog-is-pancreatic-cancer-on-the-rise-part-1

Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2018 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.org, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.

Alleviate Pain-Movement Based Therapies

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailIn many of my articles I have stated the importance of movement specifically through physical exercises or activity.  For without movement activities, the body and mind will quickly deteriorate creating more aggravating pain while increasing risk for more illness or disease.  There is a direct connection between the mind-body (psychosomatic) neurological meridian connections.  I like to refer to these meridians as the “health highways” electrical conduits throughout the body.  This is because mobility or lack of it can have an impact on positive “healing” nerve-holistic body stimulation, delay, or worsening of the healing process through these connections.

There are two fronts where lack of motion or mobility can impact overall health byway of these health highway connections.  1)  Mind-Body connection – Depression can and does contribute to pain disease if you allow it to motivate a sedentary lifestyle; opposed to pain tolerance learned and applied appropriately provide greater mobility and health benefit.  On the flip side, 2) Body-Mind – You “may not” be depressed but have severely limited your activities due to body function pain.  In either case, lack of activity creates a negative impact on motivation, self-esteem, disease mitigation, quality of life and other health risks.  Both ends of the “mind-body/body-mind” connection can turn full circle limiting activity, causing depression and can cause serious or grave harm to your overall health.

You must never give up on finding some form of activity, therapy and/or exercise within your day to offset further body degradation while maintaining a pain management program.  Depression is a pain patient’s worst enemy (MAE Health Blog, “Dealing with Depression,” M.T. Woodard, 25 Aug 08).  In my opinion, incorporation of a movement based therapy program is essential toward a holistic pain healing, or health maintenance program.  For without a daily movement program it is very difficult for a pain patient to thwart off depression and worsening of pain!  I do realize there are some that are completely incapacitated where my recommendations to increase activity or mobility may not be practical.  However, I encourage and highly recommend you consult with your doctor, or specialists to see if they could assist, direct, or refer you toward specialized movement based therapy resources relative to your chronic pain condition.

Some examples of non-specialized movement based activities if your pain tolerances will allow full or partial participation:  Gym membership, task specific exercise, i.e., walking, riding a recumbent stationary bike, low impact aerobics, e.g., treadmill, hand pedal stationary unit, bicycle and daily stretching exercise, etc.  Hobbies/social – Camping, fishing, community involvement, church choir, hiking, travel, home and garden, etc.  Find something that will get you excited about life and within acceptable pain tolerance that does not cause severe aggravation, or further damage to existing pain problems.  Discuss these movement based activities with your pain specialists, etc., to assess your pain conditions before you incorporate any of these recommendations into your pain program.  Just because you have varying levels of chronic pain, does not mean you are 100% “movement” disabled (MAE HealthBlog, “Disabilities & Public Perception,” M.T. Woodard, 7 July 2008).

Listed below are specialized movement based therapies to further your research and consideration of such program (s) within a customized pain management program while working with pain specialists and/or doctors.

1.  Physical exercises or activity.  Physical activity provides benefits to strengthening muscles, joints, ligament, tendons; oxygen-enriched blood to all cellular structures; improved structural alignment and release of natural feel good endorphins.

“You’re body produces natural and addictive chemicals that are optimally activated during exercise, or during increased activity:   1) Adrenaline a neurotransmitter and hormone produced by the adrenalin gland just above the kidneys, also known as norepinephrine and epinephrine (provides attention focus in brain).  Together these chemicals activate your fight or flight stimulation designed to get the body out of a stressful situation, or survive an injury scenario.  It acts as a natural pain killer, boosts oxygen and glucose fuel to brain, muscles and suppresses depression.  2)   Dopamine is produced and synthesized in the brain which boosts positive behavior, cognition, motor activity, motivation, sleep, mood, learning and attention.  3)  Serotonin is synthesized within the CNS (Central Nervous System).  This chemical is also found in many mushrooms, plants, fruits and vegetables.  Research shows Serotonin plays an important role in liver regeneration and induces cell division throughout the body (important for repair and healing of the body).  Serotonins role as a neurotransmitter of the brain is to modulate anger, mood, aggression, sleep, sexuality, appetite and metabolism.”  (MAE HealthBlog, “An Addictive Chemical to Stimulate Will Power,” M.T., Woodard, 22 Jan 2009).

“I know a lot of you out there are hurting with disabling pain thinking there is nothing more you can do to increase your physical activity, receive further health benefits and/or improve your health condition, or quality of life.  There are solutions, but you have to want to become a mirror athlete as your number one goal.  Remember a mirror athlete will use health management techniques customized within a pain management program to improve posture, alleviate pain, while improving, or contributing to overall health through daily activities and/or exercise maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul.”

My contention, if you can move segments of your body, you “can” receive a health benefit.  If you suffer from depression, there is group support within the medical community and much information to be found in libraries or the Internet.  If you’re on a pain management program, you “may be able” to reduce your daily pain prescription to allow focus on activities for periods of time in a day.  (MAE HealthBlog, “Disabilities & Public Perception,” Woodard, 07 July 2008).

2.  Physical Therapy – Since movement is central to good health, physical therapy focuses on rehabilitation, promotion of body movement, or exercise.  The major pain alleviation modalities are manual handling, electrotherapy, massage, physical medicine, ultrasound, etc.   Other areas of physical therapy specialization include:  Health limitations due to cardiopulmonary, geriatrics, neurologic, orthopedic, pediatrics problems, burn patients and post surgical treatment in assisting with focus in habilitation, or rehabilitation (enable take care of oneself; restore to former state).  Physical therapy includes the use of many variations, or singular pain treatment modalities to assist and stimulate healthy movement, while working through pain issues, recovery, rehabilitation, etc.  Other areas of physical therapy specialization focus on psychological and emotional well-being activities.  Therapy is performed by a licensed physical therapist (PT) or an assistant acting under PT direction.  Offices and practices vary by demographic and specialties mentioned above, settings include:  Hospices, industrial workplaces, outpatient clinics, offices, inpatient rehab facilities, extended care facilities, private homes, and education, also research centers.

3.    Specialized and assisted movement programs.

a.  Yoga, Indian meditation posing and stretching – Purification of the physical body or mind to strengthen the body, or well being as a whole unit.  I will not go into the detailed specifics behind various Yoga philosophies as this is beyond the intent of information I’m providing you.  If you want to learn more about Yoga philosophy and techniques I highly recommend you contact a Yoga studio, read books on Yoga, or research the Internet to become better informed how Yoga could benefit your well being.  Yoga posing and stretching techniques have positive health benefits on the mind and body while alleviating pain.  Positive mind focus through concentrated and careful body movement focuses energies on piece of mind while stimulating the natural physical healing cycle of the body.

b.  Pilates, strengthening core muscles through resistive exercise routine – The premise of Pilates uses the mind to control the muscles.  Since the program focuses on postural muscles; abdomen, lower back, hips and buttocks, there is great benefit in body balance through strengthening these “core” major muscle groups which is essential to spine health.  This program concentrates on breathing ensuring proper alignment of the spine while strengthening deep torso muscles.  Pilates breathing techniques teaches the importance of continuous and deep breathing techniques as essential to remove toxins and provide oxygen enriched blood to maintain overall health and pain alleviation.  Those with disabilities can apply a customized Pilate’s program to better aid in and improve overall function.  One should “only” participate in a Pilate’s program while under the supervision of a certified instructor.  If interested in learning more about the Pilates program research the largest certified Pilates program worldwide, Stott Pilates.  Also see Pilates Method Alliance (PMA), which is an umbrella organization attempting to standardize certification worldwide.

c.  Tai Chi, Chinese practice of slow movement and focus on balance.  This program makes use of Soft Chinese internal martial arts where “chi” energy makes use of an opponent’s strength against them – Instead of using overpowering muscular force and strength to defend against an opponent, the body’s chi energy is effectively tapped where brute force is not necessary to protect oneself.  The opposition’s strength is applied against forced assertion through focus and fluid motion during the defense.  Tai Chi has many health benefits associated with this form of concentrated, low impact and fluid motion just through practicing concentrated movement techniques.  The health and fitness benefits of Tai Chi exercise are well recognized worldwide without the physical strains associated with intense exercise.  The benefits associated with the practice of Tai Chi’s relaxed movement techniques:  Lowers stress levels, slows down aging, improves postural alignment, better breathing technique, pain alleviation, improved blood circulation, flexibility, etc.  Disease prevention and/or health disorder mitigation: Arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, cardiovascular, etc.  The theory of Tai Chi is based on traditional Chinese medicine, through the body’s electrical Chi meridians (neurological “health highways”) much in the way acupuncture is used to remove blockages that create pain in order to heal disease.  Tai Chi exercises can be used to achieve the same results.

d.  Feldenkrais – Efficiency of movement through specialized therapy. Physical well-being is established through movement patterns.  Therapy focuses on assistance in re-learning more proficient movement behaviors as opposed to inefficient and negative health impact movement that may lead to further body degradation.  Moshe Feldenkrais believes the mind and body are inseparable and as such every action is a single process of thinking, feeling, sensing and moving.  As each action impacts ultimate health transmitted through the nervous system, therapeutic movement can reinforce, or even reinstate better health and well-being by activating healthy movement patterns by triggering past feeling and thinking behaviors.  By shaping the body through active movement the whole (holistic) body, mind & soul receive the benefit.  As prior to therapy, one may have been confused, fixated and maybe lacked purpose of being.  Through Feldenkrais exercises a more relaxed and stress free holistic body creates a greater zest for life.

Common exercises include stretching, strengthening and aerobics.  However a fundamental drawback is these exercises… They do not effectively improve our characteristic movement.  In other words, you may be able to go through exercise where precision and exact movement may not be fluid, or within your pain range tolerance to perform certain moves, or movement characteristic of an unimpeded person.  However, you do receive a health benefit by participating!  General exercise routines very rarely improve useful functionality, while often aggravates habitual movement throughout the day.  Inefficient action or movement can lead stiffness, aches and pains, arthritis, fatigue and limitations.  Pain alleviation through Feldenkrais bases exploration of movement possibilities integrated with flexibility, strength and cardiopulmonary health is well worth consideration as a movement therapy incorporated into your pain management program.

By learning to sense self through proper relaxed movement one can sense proper balance, articulation, felt movement, tissue tension, pressure and pain.  Hence if tension and aggravation is felt through improper movement, one can learn to correct the pattern that is creating pain through sensory feedback to the brain.  Since Feldenkrais derives effortless pleasure in motion and holistic improvements compared to conventional stressful exercise those that participate in a program such as this want to continue to improve their abilities and overall well-being.

The key point I want you to take away from this read… Stay active; find an alternative movement based therapy, hobby, or interest to improve your quality of life through motion and/or exercise.  Although there is a balance of pain tolerance one must learn to overcome during movement based therapies… Specialized movement techniques are well worth the exploration and research to consider participation.  Through movement, one can relearn to mobilize and heal themselves through acceptable, low impact pain sensory rehabilitative feedback exercises, and/or activity.   I believe any movement therapy, or activity has a direct connection between the mind and body through neurological “Health Highways” establishing healing energy (Chi) to damaged tissues while alleviating pain and mitigating illness and disease.  Using non-stressful movement techniques or other activity participation “in my opinion” will improve well-being and should be included within any pain management program if at all possible.

Author:  Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET.  2009 Copyright, All rights reserved.  Mirror Athlete Enterprises Publishing @: www.mirrorathlete.org, Sign up for your free eNewsletter.