An elderly woman, who has lived to 101, holding a smiling baby in a restaurant.

How To Live To 101



My mom's mom lived to be 101. She didn't just exist to be 101 — she really lived and enjoyed life. She was an inspiration to me and to everyone around her. Whenever I tell people how long she lived, and that she was mentally sharp as a tack, they ask, “What was her secret?”


In her memory, I'm revealing many of my grandmother's “secrets” to you today. My hope is that we can all learn from her wisdom and live long, prosperous lives, while modeling healthy habits for our kids.


For as long as I can remember, Grandma took at least one nap a day. As she got older, she sometimes took two. The benefits of sleep include lower risk of heart disease, lower levels of stress and inflammation, improved memory, cognition, and mood, and even a smaller waistline! Pretty much everything we (and our kids) do is affected by sleep or lack of it. Deprivation of even one hour can negatively impact us intellectually and behaviorally.


According to research by the National Institutes of Health, most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Unlike adults, children who don’t get enough sleep at night typically become hyperactive, irritable, and inattentive during the day. Many of our children may be misdiagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when, really, they're overtired. Find out how much sleep you and your kids need and then try to establish a routine for getting it every single day.


Grandma ate slowly and really — I mean really — chewed her food. Chewing breaks down food, making it easier for the body to digest and absorb nutrients. It also forces you to slow down, eat less, choose healthier food and generally stop eating before you’re full. Grandma didn’t snack in between meals, either.


Grandma flossed religiously. Flossing not only helps get spinach and other unsightly food out of our teeth, but it also helps prevent bad breath, gum disease, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory illness. I used to be a horrible flosser. I could never maneuver my fingers to get all the way in the back of my mouth and I hated the way they got dirty whenever I wound the floss around them to go to the next spot. Then my hygienist recommended I use Glide floss picks and I love them. They have to be Glide, though. I tried the generic floss picks and they shredded to pieces.


Grandma spent some time in the sun every morning.  The importance of vitamin D is highly underrated. It's not only good for bone health, but there's increasing evidence that low levels of vitamin D can lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes as well as cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries, esophagus, and lymphatic systems. In addition, many older people lose their balance not because of their age, but because they have low levels of vitamin D, which helps regulate muscle and balance.


Grandma enjoyed a bowl of ice cream after dinner each night. She didn't pig out on dessert, but a small bowl of ice cream provided just the right amount of sweet satisfaction to end her day.


Grandma played her violin. It was something she'd done since she was a little girl and it still brought joy to her and her loved ones, even at her 100th birthday party. Playing the violin kept her fingers nimble, her brain sharp, and her body relaxed. Don't worry if you don't know how to play the violin…just find something that makes you happy and do that instead.


Grandma forced herself to move even when she didn't feel like it. Even after the third time she cracked a vertebra and doctors couldn't repair it, she still found the strength to walk every day with a walker. If she could do that at the age of 99, my kids and I have no excuse for leading a sedentary life.


Grandma surrounded herself with family and good friends. Research backs the notion that people who enjoy high levels of social support stay healthier and live longer. My grandma was blessed with six siblings, four children, six grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and 17 nieces and nephews. She had loving relationships with all of them and kept in touch with friends and family via telephone and mail.


Grandma and Marissa in 2006
Grandma holding Dalia, her 14th great-grandchild


Have any longevity secrets of your own to share? What are the healthy habits you hope to model for your kids? Please leave a comment below and let us know!


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As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Master Parenting Coach, and former K-8 School Counselor, I’m on a mission to empower moms to feel calmer and more connected to their kids.

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