Besse Cooper, world’s oldest living person offers tips on longevity

Shine On

What does it take to live to be the oldest person on the planet? Besse Cooper knows. The American super centenarian celebrated her 116th birthday on Saturday, a milestone that the Guinness Book of World Records says only eight people have ever reached.

The oldest living person — she's held that title since 2011 — celebrated her birthday surrounded by friends and family in the nursing home where she resides in Monroe, Georgia. Cooper was born in Tennessee in 1896, and moved to Monroe to look for work before World War One. She's been living in the small southern city ever since.

So what are the secrets to her incredible longevity? "I don't eat junk food," was one tip Cooper told the Guinness Book of World Records.

Whether it's genes or lifestyle, we can't deny that Cooper offers some sound advice to living to a ripe old age: "I mind my own business," she also says. Words to live — a really long time — by.

[See also: Celebrities who've aged gracefully]

Cooper isn't the only centenarian with tips to share on living an extended lifespan. In his book "The Blue Zones", author Dan Buettner identifies five zones in the world where people live significantly longer than everywhere else: Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and Icaria, Greece. Buettner carefully studied what the oldest people in these communities were doing differently, and compiled a group of characteristics shared by these populations.

Apparently, those who live the longest in the world have a particular way of doing things, including maintaining an active lifestyle, having a purpose in life, having strong family ties, being a part of a faith-based community, eating very little meat, drinking lightly but regularly, and eating until you are only 80 per cent full.

CBS conducted their own poll of 100 centenarians back in 2008, and received responses that line up very closely with the values espoused by the elderly living in the Blue Zones. In addition to the Blue Zones ideals, the American centenarians said it was important to laugh and have a sense of humour, maintain a sense of independence, and stay on top of current events.

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