One of the fastest growing demographics is the centenarian population. In 1990, there were approximately 95,000 people 100 or older. By 2015, the number reached 451,000. By 2050, experts forecast there will be 3.676 million centenarians.
What are their secrets to living long and happy lives?
Recently, 101-year old Julia Hawkins took her ideas of fun and fitness to a new level when she took up running. In 2016, she decided it was time to spice up her life with a new challenge, so she registered for the 50-meter dash at the Louisiana Senior Olympic Games which feature weightlifting, cycling, basketball, volleyball, golf, bowling, track & field, and many other events.
Julia, who is a 2-time cycling gold medalist, never ran competitively before, but stays active in her garden. This year, she has added the 100-meter dash to her events.
A widow and retired teacher, Julia has always pushed herself to compete, and has always embraced hard work to achieve a goal. She worked three jobs to put herself through college, graduating from Louisiana State University in 1938 with a degree in teaching.
As a lifelong athlete who intends to keep her fitness regimen indefinitely, I was inspired and curious to know Julia's secrets for healthy and active longevity. Here are 10 secrets I discovered about Julia that we can all apply to our own lives.
1: Maintain A Positive Attitude.
"I wish I had my mother's positive attitude," said her youngest son Warren Hawkins, age 69. "You've never met anybody better at taking a positive outlook. The glass is never half empty. It's always half-full, and it's always going to work out, and something good is always going to happen. She's just determined."
2: Maintain a Competitive Edge and Do Your Best.
"I've always liked competition," said Hawkins. She shared that with running, she can "just go out and do the best I can, and not depend on anyone or anything else to help me."
3: Find the Fun in Everything.
Julia's success in the 50-meter dash inspired her to try for the 100-meter dash. "I thought it would be fun to run 100 meters since I am more than 100 years old," she laughed.
4: Don't Be Afraid to Fail.
Julia isn't oblivious to the risks of competition, but she isn't going to let those hold her back. "The 50 dash isn't hard or anything. But you can always fall or have a heart attack or a stroke or something," she shared. "I hope not, but you have to figure it could happen at 101. Anything could happen."
5: Seek Advice From Others Who Know.
Julia admits she doesn't know much about how to adequately prepare for her races. She doesn't have a formal training program. She's counting on fellow racers to guide her on a reliable training program and diet to ensure she is as ready as possible on race day.
6: Remain Connected With Friends and In Your Community.
Julia has a very supportive community around her that includes many friends and family members (although she shares that many of her friends are too old to come cheer her on). She is also very active in other aspects of her community.
7: Get Fresh Air Every Day.
Julia spends most of her days outside tending her gardens, running, and riding her bike.
8: Fuel Your Body Well.
Julia remains loyal to a very healthy diet and lifestyle that excludes drinking and smoking, and includes lots of fruits, vegetables, fish, and poultry.
9: Continuously Stimulate Your Brain.
Julia is an avid reader, and has also written two volumes of her life story, one at the age of 80, and the other at 100.
10: Pace Yourself.
Julia is aware that expending all of her energy too soon will leave her with no reserves to finish what she started. She loves watching the Olympics but has noted that several collapse at the end of their races, and wants to avoid that.
Regarding her own upcoming races, "I want to spend it all but have a little bit left to stand alert at the end and wave to my friends and family."
Finally, perhaps her most valuable secret is her overall state of mind. "I don't feel 101, she reflects. "I feel about 60 or 70. You are not going to be perfect at 101, but nothing stops me."