If you’re looking to live to 100, you may want to watch more than your diet. A study of people in remote Italian villages who lived past 90 found that they tended to have certain psychological traits in common, including stubbornness and resilience.
The study, published in International Psychogeriatrics, analyzed the mental and physical health of 29 elderly villagers, ages 90 to 101, from Italy’s Cilento region — an area known for the prevalence of people older than 90. The participants filled out standardized questionnaires and also participated in interviews on topics such as migration, traumatic events and beliefs. Younger family members were also asked their impressions of their older relatives’ personality traits.
The younger adults tended to describe their older relatives as controlling, domineering and stubborn. But the 90- and 100-somethings also displayed qualities of resilience and adaptability to change, the authors wrote. One respondent who recently lost his wife told interviewers, “Thanks to my sons, I am now recovering and feeling much better … I have fought all my life and I am always ready for changes. I think changes bring life and give chances to grow.”
The research demonstrates how adults who live to 90 or 100 have learned to balance these somewhat contradictory traits, says Dr. Dilip Jeste, senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and senior author on the study. “These people have been through depressions, they’ve been through migrations, they’ve lost loved ones,” he says. “In order to flourish, they have to be able to accept and recover from the things they can’t change, but also fight for the things they can.”