Talking To The Oldest Man On Earth

An interview with Walter Breuning, who celebrated his 114th on September 21st:

Nir Barzilai of the Institute for Aging Research studies centenarians:

"There is no pattern... The usual recommendations for a healthy life - not smoking, not drinking, plenty of exercise, a well-balanced diet, keeping your weight down - they apply to us average people... but not to them. Centenarians are in a class of their own." He pulls spreadsheets out of a drawer, adjusts his glasses and reads out loud: "At the age of 70, a total of 37 percent of our subjects were, according to their own statements, overweight, and 8 percent were obese; 37 percent were smokers, on average for 31 years; 44 percent said that they only moderately exercised; 20 percent never exercised."

But Barzilai is quick to point out that people shouldn't start questioning the importance of a healthy lifestyle: "Today's changes in lifestyle do in fact contribute to whether someone dies at the age of 85 or already at age 75." But in order to reach the age of 100, says the researcher, you need a special genetic make-up. "These people age differently. Slower. They end up dying of the same diseases that we do - but 30 years later and usually quicker, without languishing for long periods."

(Hat tip: Dan Zak for video and Norm Geras for article)