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How to Live to 100: 35 of the Funniest Quotes from Centenarians

Contrary to popular belief, it involves a lot of ice cream and bacon and a little bit of booze.

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100th birthdayAlejo Miranda/Shutterstock

How many centenarians are there?

Living to 100 years old is quite the feat yet more and more people are achieving that major milestone. There are about 450,000 centenarians in the world, with the largest population—72,000—living in the United States, according to the Centenarian. How, exactly, they do it remains somewhat of a mystery. But one thing they all seem to have in common is a sharp sense of humor and a joyful optimism. We rounded up some of the funniest things these people have said about how they made it through 100+ years on this planet.

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Centenarian Quote

Double trouble

Kathy Hampton has so much energy that she needs not just one, but two, younger men to keep her busy—a fact made even more impressive when you realize she confessed this at her 100th birthday celebration, her great-granddaughter told Yahoo. The Internet couldn’t get enough of the stylish centenarian who was the belle of the ball in a sleek white dress and dark, coiffed hair. Grandmas often know a thing or two about beauty, check out these 45 beauty tips all younger people should follow.

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Centenarian Quote

Single 4 life

When Jessie Gallan died at 109 years old, she went out much the same way she came in: Single. And that’s exactly how she liked it. “‘My secret to a long life has been staying away from men. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth,” she told the Daily Mail. A longer life is just one of 8 reasons women say they love being single.

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Centenarian Quote

Is that what your doctor told you?

You can forget all those articles that tell you what healthy foods you need to eat to live to be 100, according to Paul Marcus, who lived to be 103. “One, you gotta have good genes,” he told the Denver Post. “Two, you gotta be god damned lucky for 100 years. And three: Try not to eat anything that’s healthy. It’s true. I eat whatever I want. The secret to longevity is ice cream.” Here’s hoping!

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Centenarian Quote

Sometimes it happens by accident…

Living past 100 is rare and so it makes sense that people want to know the secret to such a long life but it must get tiring to get asked that same question so many times—at least it did for Alexander Imich, who lived to 111. When asked how he lived for so long he retorted to NBC4NY “I don’t know, I simply didn’t die earlier. I have no idea how this happened.”

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Centenarian Quote

Now that’s a happy hour

Everyone has a favorite snack food and 106-year-old Edith Atkinson Wylie sees no reason not to indulge daily in her favorite: Bright orange, crunchy Cheetos. She loves them so much that she credits them as much as her good genes for her long life, according to Montana’s Great Falls Tribune. Find out what your favorite snack food says about you.

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Centenarian Quote

Truer words have never been spoken

Forget your low-carb or low-fat diets; Susannah Mushatt Jones, who lived to be 116, kept a steady diet of bacon, eggs, and grits for breakfast. She even kept a sign in her kitchen that read “bacon makes everything better,” her daughter told USA Today. Her daughter reported that Jones ate four strips of bacon every morning, sometimes tucking an extra piece into a napkin in her purse for later. Here are more uplifting quotes that will stay with you.

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Centenarian Quote

Just what the doctor ordered

A doctor asked Elizabeth Sullivan if she was careful to eat a healthy diet. He likely was not prepared for her answer: “I said, ‘Certainly not, I drink three Dr. Peppers a day,’ and he said, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s too much sugar. You will die if you keep drinking that,'” Elizabeth Sullivan shared with CBS news on her 104th birthday in 2015. But ten years after that conversation, it was her doctor, not her, who had died. “So I’m still drinking three Dr. Peppers a day and people said that’s bad for me but you know, not very many people live to be 104,” she said. “So I guess the sugar in the Dr. Peppers has kept me alive all this time.”

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Centenarian Quote

You ain’t seen nothing yet

Instead of slowing down as she got older, Sullivan said that her tenth decade of life started her best years. “I could play bridge when I wanted to, drive around when I wanted to, take trips to England or whatever I wanted to,” she said to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Inspired to start your own later-in-life adventures? Make sure you know these 8 helpful tips for seniors traveling.

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Centenarian Quote

Don’t save the best for last

Jones also had a fondness for fancy undergarments. “She would save her money and then go to Bloomingdale’s,'” her niece told Time. “One time, when she had to get an EKG, the doctors and nurses were surprised to see her wearing that lingerie, and she said, ‘Oh sure, you can never get too old to wear fancy stuff.'”

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Centenarian Quote

Sounds like a smart idea to us

Morano also confessed to eating a diet of “two raw eggs a day plus some cookies,” saying that the eggs were to cure her anemia and the cookies, well, they were just for fun. She even said she would hide cookies under her pillow to prevent other people from eating them. Got a craving now? Try one of these easy cookie recipes straight from grandmothers’ recipe boxes.

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Centenarian Quote

Long hair, don’t care

We’re not quite sure what so concerned Adelina Domingues, who died at 114, about beauty parlors but steering clear of “vanities” certainly seemed to work for her. “She never fractured a bone,” one of her caretakers told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “We never sent her to the hospital for anything. She didn’t take any medications. Her hair wasn’t even all the way gray. It was amazing.”

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Centenarian Quote

We’ll have what she’s having

The research may be conflicting about how drinking alcohol affects your health but Agnes Fenton isn’t bothered by science. When she was 110 years old, she told ABC7 NY that she drinks three bottles of Miller High Life and one glass of whiskey every day. She even added a glass of Johnny Walker Blue Label until her caretakers cut her off.

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Centenarian Quote

Isn’t it obvious?

When asked what her secret for longevity is, Fenton retorted that there isn’t any secret. “Ain’t no secret, just keep in touch with God and do the right thing, that’s all I know,” she said. She may not know but we’ll share these 50 science-backed secrets for a longer life with you.

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Centenarian Quote

Shaken not stirred

Andy Medema, who died at 101, preached the curative properties of vodka and vermouth. “A vodka martini a day, no cigarettes, and hard work,” he told the Chicago Tribune. Do you know what your favorite alcoholic beverage says about your personality?

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Centenarian Quote

Dance like no one’s watching

Dancing was an essential part of daily life for Gertrude Weber, who died in 2015 at 116 years old. She lived a clean life—no smoking or drinking for her—but she did “chair dancing” three times a week. When Time asked why she loved it so much she replied, “We chair dance because we can’t get up anymore!” Well…obviously.

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Centenarian Quote

Nap as needed

Another secret to Weber’s long, happy life was an ability to nap whenever the urge to sleep took her, she said. And hey, by the time you make it past 100, you’ve earned that right to nod off whenever you like! Even if you’re much younger, science has a great reason why everyone should nap.

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Centenarian Quote

Who needs men?

When Emma Morano died in 2017 she was the oldest living person at 117 years old. One secret to her longevity was ending her abusive marriage in 1939—and never remarrying afterward. “I didn’t want to be dominated by anyone,” she told CNN.

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Centenarian Quote

Hope he has a big ashtray

Richard Overton loves his cigars—so much so that when he reached 110 years old, Cigar Aficionado magazine gave him a special honor. The super-centenarian shared that he smoked more than 12 cigars a day plus downing four glasses of bourbon. Why? “It makes me feel good,” he explained.

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Centenarian Quote

Do what makes you happy

Overton shared that he also swore by a special diet that he called “the Overton diet.” His personal diet plan included ice cream, particularly praline pecan, every day. On a more serious note, here are some beautiful proverbs about life from around the world.

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Centenarian Quote

Does she live at the North Pole?

Erna Zahn didn’t think much of today’s modern gyms and fitness fads. The Minnesota native was used to working out with what she had—plenty of the cold, white stuff. “Get out and shovel snow. It’s really good exercise,” she told the Journal when she turned 110.

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Centenarian Quote

Would you like a burger to go along with that?

She never drank liquor, only had one husband for 83 years, but Ruth Benjamin, who lived to 109, did have a couple of vices: Potatoes and bacon. “I eat potatoes some kind of way every day and I love kraut,” she told her local news station. “Oh and I just love bacon!”

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Centenarian Quote

Don’t try to pull a fast one on her

Florence Bearse didn’t make it to 100 by being a pushover. So when asked for her advice for others she advised following in her footsteps by not taking any nonsense, or “baloney,” from anyone, she told NBC news. Hint: Learning how to say no is one of 50 tiny changes you can make to be happier today.

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Centenarian Quote


Another secret Bearse swears by is her daily glass of wine, citing it as a great pleasure. Instead of worrying about the possible adverse effects of the alcohol on her health, her only concern was people taking away her favorite beverage.

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Centenarian Quote

Breakfast is her favorite meal

Intermittent fasting wouldn’t have passed snuff with Zahn either, who said she never missed a meal and breakfast was her favorite. “No matter what, I don’t skip meals,” she said. No hangry arguments for her!

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Centenarian Quote

Maybe it’s the caffeine?

“I’m surprised that I’m 104, it just doesn’t seem like I should be that old,” Theresa Rowley told WZZM13. She chalks it up to her daily Diet Coke habit. “I drink it because I like it,” she said. “I’m going shopping Wednesday, and I need more Diet Coke. I have a bag full of empty Diet Coke cans that I need to return to buy more Diet Coke.”

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Centenarian Quote

Feel the rhythm

If the thought of an 111-year-old bumping and grinding to hip hop surprises you that’s because you never met Downing Kay. She swore by family, Scrabble, and her weekly Zumba classes, according to the Baltimore Sun.

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Centenarian Quote

What could be simpler

Continuing the trend of not depriving themselves of their favorite foods, Misao Okawa told the Japan Times that she credited her 117 years to “eating delicious things.” Her favorite foods? Ramen noodles, beef stew, hashed beef, and rice mackerel sushi. Here are some motivational quotes from eternal optimists.

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Centenarian Quote

Never quit

Living to an astounding 122 years old, Jeanne Louise Calment still holds the title of the World’s Oldest Person, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. One of her secrets was giving up cigarettes—an unsurprising admission for anyone familiar with the research linking smoking to an early death. However, she didn’t quit smoking until she was 117! Now we’re wondering how long she might have lived had she never smoked!

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Centenarian Quote

Well, “art” is subjective

Succeeding as a movie star is difficult for people much younger, yet at 114 years old Calment landed a role in a movie about Vincent Van Gogh. How? She’d actually met the artist and sold him canvases. “He was ugly as sin, had a vile temper and smelled of booze,” she said.

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Centenarian Quote

It’s all in the name

Calment was known for her tranquil, peaceful nature—something she joked about with reporters, telling them, “That’s why they call me ‘Calm-ent’!”

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Centenarian Quote

A sense of humor is everything

At Calment’s 120th birthday, when reporters asked her what kind of future she expected to have, she quipped, “A very short one.” Amazingly, she went on to live another two years and we’re sure her sense of humor had something to do with that! Bonus: Having a good sense of humor can help you have a healthy brain.

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Centenarian Quote

She may have a point…

Bernice Madigan lived to be 115 years old. How? She told friends and relatives that her secret to longevity was simple: no children, no stress, and a daily spoonful of honey, according to the Boston Globe. We’re guessing the first two items were related.

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Centenarian Quote

Pass the Hershey Kisses

At 127 years old, Leandra Becerra Lumbreras is the unofficial longest-lived human being—she lost her proof of birth so there was no way to verify it. But regardless of the paperwork, she achieved a remarkably long life thanks to a regimen of chocolate snacks, very long naps, and no husbands, her family told the Telegraph.

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Centenarian Quote

Young at heart

Sister Jean, who just celebrated her 100th birthday, is a fixture at Loyola University basketball games—so much so they even made a Lego sculpture of the nun. When asked what kept her so vibrant and involved she credited working with all the young people, joking to CNN that while they haven’t stopped her body from aging, they’ve helped keep her heart young.

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Centenarian Quote

Who’s got the beat?

Ballroom dancing to everything from classical music to the BeeGees to Mary J. Blige keeps 101-year-old John Grumbine on his toes, literally and figuratively. He loves dancing so much that he goes to the studio three to four times a week, dancing with partners half his age and younger, and even doing competitions, he told Lancaster Online. Next, see more life-changing quotes you won’t forget.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.

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