Ever wish you could harness the secrets of the world’s centenarians or supercentenarians (100+)? You’re not alone. Longevity research has been the life’s work of thousands of different researchers from various fields. Every year there emerge fascinating new insights in to how to live longer – and be happy and healthy at the same time.

It’s got to the point where reaching 100 isn’t especially remarkable any more. There are over 4,000 centenarians in Australia. In 2020, that number will triple to over 12,000. And 30 years after that, it will hit 50,000. Advances in medicine, preventative care and lifestyle research have brought us a long way. But living beyond the current life expectancy (currently 82 and trending up), even hitting the magical 100, is about much more than just staying alive. It’s about enjoying a healthy and happy life.

So what can you do, starting now, to improve your chances of getting to 100 in good shape?

Staying sharp

Gerontologists have tested, reviewed and experimented with a variety of different activities, habits and structured programs to see what really keeps people sharper for longer. Depending on who you listen to, good ‘brain workouts’ can include everything from learning a new language or a new skill, to doing a puzzle like a crossword or Sudoku every day.

Upon being interviewed, many of the world’s oldest people say their ‘secret’ is a positive attitude. Some find their source of strength in religion, whilst others have simply had their positive thinking skills thoroughly tested by everything from world wars to global recessions. Stress reduction is another facet of positivity; researchers have found that practices such as yoga and meditation have a strong link with both low reported stress levels and longevity in different populations around the world.

Keeping fit, eating well

Looking at what today’s oldest living people have in common, there are a few themes: they don’t smoke, they rarely drink, they eat a balanced diet, and they stay active – even if just through having a walk every day, or getting out in the garden.

Of course, the definition of ‘balanced diet’ depends a lot on culture; both the Japanese diet and the Mediterranean diet have been cited as examples of ‘longevity diets’, and they’re remarkably different. But small portions, lots of vegetables and few ‘treat foods’ are a good place to start. Funnily enough, the real answer may be as simple as porridge. Scotland’s former oldest woman, Jessie Gallan, said her secret was a bowl of porridge a day. A recent review by Harvard University researchers found that 70g of wholegrains a day (roughly one bowl of porridge) lowered the risk of death by 22%.

It all adds up

Changing your life to boost your longevity doesn’t mean you have to live like a monk. Rather, it’s about making small changes that add up. For example, you could make multiple small tweaks to your diet and exercise regime: an extra walk here, a handful of heart-healthy nuts there, a cup of green tea here. Consider: