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"How to live to be 100" described the physical habits and attitudes of centenarians [Aug. 30]. Their strategies for successful aging can be employed by everyone. Let's remind one another that humor, passion and the ability to view aging as a valuable source of knowledge helps us all. We should not approach growing old with thoughts of darkness, withdrawal and rejection. We need to enjoy living, no matter what our calendar years.
Madison, Wis.

My mother lived for 100 years and four months. She gave birth to all nine of her children at home. She had no special diet; in fact, she ate exactly what she wanted. She came to the U.S. from Italy at age 19. She never learned to drive, so she walked everywhere. When she was in her 90s, a mugger tried to grab her purse. She whacked him on the head with it and spewed a few choice words at the young tough. She's the woman I've most admired in my life!
La Mesa, Calif.

Mind & Body Happiness
Jan. 17, 2004

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Your article gave some tips on ways to live to be 100. But a leading factor, according to a study of longevity in the Republic of Georgia, is the feeling of being needed. The aged there are made to feel they are necessary to their families, for functions ranging from baby sitting to being toastmaster at frequent dinners. The researchers found that filling a need can help people cope with and overcome life's adversities.
Mountain View, Calif.

Your story quoted a gerontologist who said of his pool of research subjects, "I don't have any fat centenarians"--a thought that should catch the attention of baby boomers. I am also a gerontologist, and I've found that people who live long lives have certain traits in common. They are usually feisty and flexible, and they have faith in themselves and the world. They are survivors who have a sense humor and humility. Thanks for the many hints for the rest of us who want to emulate these pioneers.
La Jolla, Calif.

Your story on longevity did not mention the issue of ageism. Throughout America, otherwise rational people are undergoing cosmetic nips and tucks and spending billions on "anti-aging" drugs and treatments. No wonder many of our elderly are depressed and suicidal. Everywhere they go, they hear the message "Old is ugly; old is shameful; whatever you do, don't look or act old!" Until we start a social-change movement to raise consciousness about ageism, none of us are going to relish living to 100--or even to 50.
Arlington, Va.

What good is it to be 100 years old if you can't afford to live on a limited income? How will centenarians make ends meet supported only by Social Security? There are no guarantees that we will live until tomorrow. I will eat my favorite foods and have a good time and live for today. Let tomorrow take care of itself.
Oklahoma City, Okla.

For Plain Speaking

Joe Klein's column on John Kerry's reluctance to make statements that are controversial or negative, heeding the advice of his political consultants, was right on target [Aug. 30]. Kerry is headed for defeat because he seems to be no more than a politician who test-markets his every utterance, whereas President Bush, love him or hate him, comes across as a man who means what he says and doesn't stick his finger in the air checking to see which way the wind is blowing before he speaks.

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