Art of Aging: Secrets of living longer

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. (WPVI) -- Hardly a week goes by on Action News without a birthday party for someone who's passed the century mark, 104, 106, and beyond.

In fact, Mayor Michael Nutter's annual centenarian lunch is now too big to hold in city hall.

The question is, why are so many Americans living so long? And so well?

Dr. Thomas Lawrence of Main Line Health says genetics only accounts for a third of the formula for a long healthy life.

The three other major factors are squarely in our hands.

'Maintaining weight in an ideal range, never being overweight," adds Dr. Lawrence.

Dr. Lawrence says that includes healthy eating throughout life, and shaking bad habits like smoking or excessive alcohol use early on.

A second factor is, be active like centenarian, Marvin Fisher.

His 100th birthday party was at the pool where he swims.

When he's not in the pool, Fisher volunteers in the sleep disorders center at Lankenau Hospital.

He says, "They can't get along unless I'm here."

That's not a complete exaggeration - since he started here at the age of 96, the retired businessman has been "master of the records room."

"I get all of their folders ready for the people who are coming in the next day. When they leave, they put the folders back in my room, but I file them all away," said Fisher.

His volunteer work also illustrates the third element - stay connected to other people.

Dr. Lawrence said, "People who are more engaged in life and more connected socially with family and friend networks tend to live longer, happier, healthier lives."

Fisher, a widower, dines out with friends regularly, and has a close relationship with a widow in his apartment complex.

He says, "It's more than a friend."

Fisher says don't think of what you've done, but what you want to do.
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