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100 Pieces of Advice from 100-Year-Olds

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What’s the secret to a long and healthy life? All centenarians have their own habits and morning routines by which they swear. In July, the world's oldest woman—116-year-old Brooklynite Susannah Mushatt Jones—attributed her longevity to a daily dose of four strips of bacon. For 110-year-old Agnes Fenton, “three cans of Miller High Life a day and a shot of good booze at 5 p.m.” does the trick (Johnnie Walker Blue is her drink of choice). From daily naps to ice cream, here's what some very old people credit for their lengthy lifespan.

In 2011, Huffington Post interviewed a centenarian named Ruth. Since the age of 92, Ruth has committed to weekly Pilates classes. She also has a mean sense of style.

1. “Don’t look at the calendar. Just keep celebrating every day.”

2. “Invest in quality pieces, they never go out of style.”

3. “I make myself go out every day, even if it’s only to walk around the block. The key to staying young is to keep moving.”

NBC talked to a 100-year-old doctor who still ran his own practice. He had a few untraditional pieces of medical wisdom to share.

4. “Exercise, to me, is totally unnecessary. I think it’s mostly overrated.”

5. “The use of vitamins? Forget it. And I don’t encourage going to a lot of doctors, either.”

6. “Fall in love, get married. Sex is to be encouraged.”

This centenarian shared advice about love, forgiveness, and passion:

7. “Even if you feel hatred, keep it to yourself. Don’t hurt other people for any reason.”

8. “Don’t ever give up on love.”

9. “Nobody else controls you.”

10. “Make time to cry.”

11. "Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about the money, just make it work. Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.”

12. “Don’t compare. You’ll never be happy with your life. The grass is always greener.”

13. “If you are embarrassed to be dating someone, you should not be dating them.”

14. “Do one thing each day that is just for you.”

15. “Don’t be a cheapskate.”

16. “Forgive.”

17. “Find your passion and live it.”

18. “Most time things will figure themselves out.”

19. “Choose the right parents.”

20. “Have a pet. Life gets lonely sometimes. Pets are reminders of how we’re all living things.”

21. “I’m not saying you have to practice one religion or another, or not practice one religion or another… I’m just saying that you should figure out what you believe in and live it completely.”

22. “Learn to adapt.”

23. “Take time to mourn what you’ve lost.”

For Adrine Lee, the key to longevity lies in four simple steps:

24. “Keep going and never give up.”

25. “Make yourself walk.”

26. “I drink the faucet water.”

27. “Don’t just die all because you want to.”

And then there’s advice about how to find happiness.

28. “Life is fun. It’s all up to the person. Be satisfied. You don’t have to be ‘happy’ all the time, you need to be satisfied.”

29. “Love people. Find something to like about the person—it’s there—because we’re all just people.”

For others, the key is in education.

30. “Get a great education. That is something that no one can take away from you.”

One centenarian was interviewed by Jay Leno. She gave the following advice:

31. “Think positive.”

32. “Exercise every morning… I have a machine… it’s a cross between a rowing machine and a bicycle… [I do] 150, 200 [rows] every morning. I won’t leave my bedroom until I’ve done that.”

And then there are the 100-year-olds who are even more active than the average 20-year-old couch potato. This centenarian, an avid skier, had this to share with younger generations:

33. "Be active. I do things my way, like skiing when I’m 100. Nobody else does that even if they have energy. And I try to eat pretty correctly and get exercise and fresh air and sunshine.”

34. “If you’re positive you can get through it OK. When you think negatively, you’re putting poison on your body. Just smile. They say laughter is the best medicine there is.”

Sardinia, an island in Europe, is well known for its high proportion of centenarians. They offered their own advice about health and medicine.

35. “For years I would not take any medicines at all. I don’t think they do much, and lots of times the doctor is using you as a guinea pig.”

36. “Don’t die too early.”

A common trend among advice from 100-year-olds? Keep on truckin’.

37. “Just go ahead and do your thing no matter what.”

38. “You can involve yourself in local problems. There are all sorts of things that have to be tended to in the world.”

39. “Have lots of people in the house and lots of different kinds of people—young, old, black, white, people from all over the world. People have always energized me.”

40. “Just keep going.”

Many centenarians swear by exercise.

41. “I attribute my longevity to a great extent to walking, not being in the back of the car strapped down.”

42. “I’ve done almost everything that I know of: ballet, I’ve done tai chi. I’ve done yoga. I walked 4 miles a day. I stretched and flexed. I wrote the book.”

Other 100-year-olds believe in rock and roll lifestyles.

43. “I put my health down to whiskey and cigarettes. I only drink when I’m out, but my doctor said I wouldn’t be alive without them. I’m still alive, and I can lift my elbows—it’s great.”

This 100-year-old doctor had a treasure trove of advice for younger people.

44. “We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep. I believe that we can keep that attitude as adults, too. It’s best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.”

45. “For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk, and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy. Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.”

46. “There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65.”

47. “When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery? I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.”

48. “To stay healthy always, take the stairs and carry your own stuff. I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.”

49. “My inspiration is Robert Browning’s poem 'Abt Vogler.' My father used to read it to me. It encourages us to make big art, not small scribbles. It says to try to draw a circle so huge that there is no way we can finish it while we are alive. All we see is an arch; the rest is beyond our vision but it is there in the distance.”

50. “Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it.”

51. “Don’t be crazy about amassing material things. Remember: you don’t know when your number is up, and you can’t take it with you to the next place.”

52. “Science alone can’t help or cure people.”

53. “Find a role model and aim to achieve even more than they could ever do.”

54. “It’s wonderful to live long. Until one is 60 years old, it is easy to work for one’s family and to achieve one’s goals. But in our later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours seven days a week and love every minute of it.”

Other centenarians offered relationship advice.

55. “This is some advice for the ladies. Don’t marry an older man, marry a younger one.”

What else? Just live.

56. “I try not to worry. I just try to live.”

57. “I try to have enough trust and confidence in myself to deal with things as they come.”

For others, old age comes by keeping a simple lifestyle.

58. “I don’t eat very much, but I always eat a fruit, a vegetable, and a little meat, and always make sure that I get sardine and salmon at least once or twice a week.”

59. “For less than seven years I had a mortgage. I paid everything outright, and I’ve lived that way until today. That is the secret to longevity right there.”

60. “Keep busy doing what you like.”

Or is old age just about luck?

61. “You gotta have good genes.”

62. “You gotta be… lucky for 100 years.”

63. “Try not to eat anything that’s healthy. It’s true. I eat whatever I want. The secret to longevity is ice cream.”

64. “Quit while you’re ahead.”

65. “It’s just as important to take care of your mind. I take two classes… and I’ve studied everything from anti-Semitism to current events.”

The modern day fountain of youth? Humor.

66. “[Humor is] a life force, a way of surviving the difficulties of living.”

67. “When you laugh at yourself, you prevent others from laughing at you.”

68. “I think [people] have to be curious. They have to be interested in life outside their little aches and pains. They have to be excited about seeing new things, meeting new people, watching a new play—just passionate about life.”

69. “I don’t care what you’re passionate about: maybe saving Dixie cup covers. But if you do it passionately, you’re alive.”

70. “Age is not a disease.”

Other 100-year-olds offer advice about how to protect yourself.

71. “Don’t get hurt.”

On Reddit, a grandson created a thread where he allowed people to ask his 101-year-old grandmother for advice. This is what happened:

72. “Be honest. I’ve rarely lied. And when you are honest with people, it comes back to you, and they are honest with you. It’s too much work keeping up with a lie. You don’t need the extra stress.”

73. “Keep an open mind, and things seem less strange.”

74. “Always listen to the other person. You’ll learn something. Try to sit back, because you will learn a lot more listening to others than telling them what you know.”

75. “You have to love what you do. if you find a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.”

76. “Take naps every day.”

77. “You get one family, so stick with them. But it depends if these hardships are financial or emotional or other types. Stick it out. Some days are worse than others, and you have to be ok with that. The night is darkest before dawn.”

78. “I try to take the time to look at and appreciate the smaller things that make this life beautiful. When I do that, time slows.”

Other centenarians had this to say:

79. “Do something interesting every day; otherwise you disintegrate.”

80. “Learning new things makes you happy and keeps your mind active.”

81. “Sleep well, try not to worry, and enjoy good dreams.”

82. “I participate in lots of activities. I play Bingo, do meditation and crafts, and attend fitness classes, like Zumba Gold for seniors, chair yoga, and sittercise… I don’t miss happy hour either! I drop in three times a week.”

83. “Be lovable. I’ve lived a long life because there are so many people who love me.”

84. “I take a drink of Scotch every day. And I feel great afterward.”

85. “Keep kosher.”

In an interview for the Washington Post, this 100-year-old took a reporter for a spin around the city in her car. She had this to say to him:

86. “I never drank, smoked, or fooled with the weeds, you know, that stuff. And I don’t let anything upset me, especially traffic.”

87. “I don’t like stress. I can’t stand arguing. If anybody is fussing, I’m gone. I like to be around positive people, people who lift you up not bring you down.”

What else? In the end, most advice seems to boil down to a common core: live your life to the fullest.

88. “Mind your own business, and don’t eat junk food.”

89. “Laughter keeps you healthy. You can survive by seeing the humor in everything. Thumb your nose at sadness; turn the tables on tragedy. You can’t laugh and be angry, you can’t laugh and feel sad, you can’t laugh and feel envious.”

90. “Look inside your soul and find your tools. We all have tools and have to live with the help of them. I have two tools: my words and my images. I used my typewriter, computer, and my cameras to fight injustice. Whenever I see a possibility of helping people who are in danger, I want to help them.”

91. “Have a good appetite, lots of friends, and keep busy.”

92. “Have a good wife, two scotches a night, and be easygoing.”

93. “Never run out of responsibility; if you don’t have one, find one. Find a cause and knock yourself out for it. It will enhance your brainpower, interest in life, and keep you alive longer. I’m alert because I work. Virtue is its own reward.”

94. “It is very important to have a widespread curiosity about life.”

95. “Keep yourself alert, active, and educated. Beat to your own drum.”  

96. “Don’t smoke, don’t drink, and don’t retire.”

97. “Take one day at a time, and go along with the tide.”

98. “You have to be lucky, but I made the best of things when bad things happened. I also ate prunes every single day.”

99. “Do what you have to do. Don’t analyze it, just do it.”

100. “Take it easy, enjoy life, what will be will be. Sleep well, have a Bailey’s Irish Cream before bed if you have a cold—you will wake up fine the next morning.”

This post originally appeared in 2013.

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Scientists Study the Starling Invasion Unleashed on America by a Shakespeare Fan

On a warm spring day, the lawn outside the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan gleams with European starlings. Their iridescent feathers reflect shades of green and indigo—colors that fade to dowdy brown in both sexes after the breeding season. Over the past year, high school students from different parts of the city came to this patch of grass for inspiration. "There are two trees at the corner I always tell them to look at," Julia Zichello, senior manager at the Sackler Educational Lab at the AMNH, recalls to Mental Floss. "There are holes in the trees where the starlings live, so I was always telling them to keep an eye out."

Zichello is one of several scientists leading the museum's Science Research Mentoring Program, or SRMP. After completing a year of after-school science classes at the AMNH, New York City high school students can apply to join ongoing research projects being conducted at the institution. In a recent session, Zichello collaborated with four upperclassmen from local schools to continue her work on the genetic diversity of starlings.

Before researching birds, Zichello earned her Ph.D. in primate genetics and evolution. The two subjects are more alike than they seem: Like humans, starlings in North America can be traced back to a small parent population that exploded in a relatively short amount of time. From a starting population of just 100 birds in New York City, starlings have grown into a 200-million strong flock found across North America.

Dr. Julia Zichello
Dr. Julia Zichello
©AMNH

The story of New York City's starlings began in March 1890. Central Park was just a few decades old, and the city was looking for ways to beautify it. Pharmaceutical manufacturer Eugene Schieffelin came up with the idea of filling the park with every bird mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare. This was long before naturalists coined the phrase "invasive species" to describe the plants and animals introduced to foreign ecosystems (usually by humans) where their presence often had disastrous consequences. Non-native species were viewed as a natural resource that could boost the aesthetic and cultural value of whatever new place they called home. There was even an entire organization called the American Acclimatization Society that was dedicated to shipping European flora and fauna to the New World. Schieffelin was an active member.

He chose the starling as the first bird to release in the city. It's easy to miss its literary appearance: The Bard referenced it exactly once in all his writings. In the first act of Henry IV: Part One, the King forbids his knight Hotspur from mentioning the name of Hotspur's imprisoned brother Mortimer to him. The knight schemes his way around this, saying, "I'll have a starling shall be taught to speak nothing but 'Mortimer,' and give it him to keep his anger still in motion."

Nearly three centuries after those words were first published, Schieffelin lugged 60 imported starlings to Central Park and freed them from their cages. The following year, he let loose a second of batch of 40 birds to support the fledgling population.

It wasn't immediately clear if the species would adapt to its new environment. Not every bird transplanted from Europe did: The skylark, the song thrush, and the bullfinch had all been subjects of American integration efforts that failed to take off. The Acclimatization Society had even attempted to foster a starling population in the States 15 years prior to Schieffelin's project with no luck.

Then, shortly after the second flock was released, the first sign of hope appeared. A nesting pair was spotted, not in the park the birds were meant to occupy, but across the street in the eaves of the American Museum of Natural History.

Schieffelin never got around to introducing more of Shakespeare's birds to Central Park, but the sole species in his experiment thrived. His legacy has since spread beyond Manhattan and into every corner of the continent.

The 200 million descendants of those first 100 starlings are what Zichello and her students made the focus of their research. Over the 2016-2017 school year, the group met for two hours twice a week at the same museum where that first nest was discovered. A quick stroll around the building reveals that many of Schieffelin's birds didn't travel far. But those that ventured off the island eventually spawned populations as far north as Alaska and as far south as Mexico. By sampling genetic data from starlings collected around the United States, the researchers hoped to identify how birds from various regions differed from their parent population in New York, if they differed at all.

Four student researchers at the American Museum of Natural History
Valerie Tam, KaiXin Chen, Angela Lobel and Jade Thompson (pictured left to right)
(©AMNH/R. Mickens)

There are two main reasons that North American starlings are appealing study subjects. The first has to do with the founder effect. This occurs when a small group of individual specimens breaks off from the greater population, resulting in a loss of genetic diversity. Because the group of imported American starlings ballooned to such great numbers in a short amount of time, it would make sense for the genetic variation to remain low. That's what Zichello's team set out to investigate. "In my mind, it feels like a little accidental evolutionary experiment," she says.

The second reason is their impact as an invasive species. Like many animals thrown into environments where they don't belong, starlings have become a nuisance. They compete with native birds for resources, tear through farmers' crops, and spread disease through droppings. What's most concerning is the threat they pose to aircraft. In 1960, a plane flying from Boston sucked a thick flock of starlings called a murmuration into three of its four engines. The resulting crash killed 62 people and remains the deadliest bird-related plane accident to date.

Today airports cull starlings on the premises to avoid similar tragedies. Most of the birds are disposed of, but some specimens are sent to institutions like AMNH. Whenever a delivery of dead birds arrived, it was the students' responsibility to prep them for DNA analysis. "Some of them were injured, and some of their skulls were damaged," Valerie Tam, a senior at NEST+m High School in Manhattan, tells Mental Floss. "Some were shot, so we had to sew their insides back in."

Before enrolling in SRMP, most of the students' experiences with science were limited to their high school classrooms. At the museum they had the chance to see the subject's dirty side. "It's really different from what I learned from textbooks. Usually books only show you the theory and the conclusion, but this project made me experience going through the process," says Kai Chen, also a senior at NEST+m.

After analyzing data from specimens in the lab, an online database, and the research of previous SRMP students, the group's hypothesis was proven correct: Starlings in North America do lack the genetic diversity of their European cousins. With so little time to adapt to their new surroundings, the variation between two starlings living on opposite coasts could be less than that between the two birds that shared a nest at the Natural History Museum 130 years ago.

Students label samples in the lab.
Valerie Tam, Jade Thompson, KaiXin Chen and Angela Lobel (pictured left to right) label samples with Dr. Julia Zichello.
©AMNH/C. Chesek

Seeing how one species responds to bottlenecking and rapid expansion can provide important insight into species facing similar conditions. "There are other populations that are the same way, so I think this data can help [scientists],” Art and Design High School senior Jade Thompson says. But the students didn't need to think too broadly to understand why the animal was worth studying. "They do affect cities when they're searching for shelter," Academy of American Studies junior Angela Lobel says. “They can dig into buildings and damage them, so they're relevant to our actual homes as well.”

The four students presented their findings at the museum's student research colloquium—an annual event where participants across SRMP are invited to share their work from the year. Following their graduation from the program, the four young women will either be returning to high school or attending college for the first time.

Zichello, meanwhile, will continue where she left off with a new batch of students in the fall. Next season she hopes to expand her scope by analyzing older specimens in the museum's collections and obtaining bird DNA samples from England, the country the New York City starlings came from. Though the direction of the research may shift, she wants the subject to remain the same. "I really want [students] to experience the whole organism—something that's living around them, not just DNA from a species in a far-away place." she says. "I want to give them the picture that evolution is happening all around us, even in urban environments that they may not expect."

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This Russian Kindergarten Looks Just Like a Castle
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A group of lucky kindergarteners in Russia don’t have to wear poufy dresses or plastic crowns to pretend they’re royalty. As Atlas Obscura reports, all they have to do is go to school.

In a rural area of Russia's Leninsky District sits a massive, pastel-colored schoolhouse that was built to resemble Germany's famed Neuschwanstein Castle. It has turrets and gingerbread-like moldings—and instead of a moat, the school offers its 150 students multiple playgrounds, a soccer field, a garden, and playhouses.

Tuition is 21,800 rubles (about $360) a month, but the Russian government subsidizes it to make it less expensive for parents. As for the curriculum: it’s designed to promote social optimism, and each month’s lesson plan is themed. (September, for example, will be career-focused.)

Take a video tour of the school below, or learn more on the school’s website.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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