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What makes people who live to be 97 tick?

It was instructive to read the stories of the twenty three 97 year olds who were chosen from the 80 survivors of a cohort of over a thousand Geordies who entered a study on reaching 85 during 2006. ‘I don’t fall, I slide’: older people rebel to keep sense of control, research finds | Older people | The Guardian



This was a ‘purposive’ sample and makes no claim to be representative, it included 16 women, 15 of the 23 were living in private households, 14 of these being alone, only one was living in a care home. Dementia or cognitive impairment are not mentioned as exclusion factors, so it is likely that some included in this sample had some such difficulties – It is encouraging to believe that their views have been honoured.


The original study has produced a series of brilliant and illuminating reports about the physical mental and social aspects of life over ten years for these people, who were old by definition from the start. Here we learn something of the inner selves of these individuals who have endured so far into old age.


They come over as phlegmatic and pragmatic, being content with their lot and making the best of things – traits which they have surely carried rather than invented in their 90s. They will not be thrown off course by whims of fashion or political correctness. The Guardian dwells on their cussedness – ignoring what doctors and daughters advise they should do, if they do not agree.


Yet at least some declare humility: The original paper includes the quote that one reported – ‘(I am) praying for a comfortable death’.


‘I’d rather just go quietly, with dignity. I think he [God] might answer my prayers, because I ask him often enough.’


These are ultra-mature individuals, who do not suffer rules gladly. How wonderful to know they have travelled with awareness of another dimension.

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