Top 10 Centenarian Secrets for a Happy Family

Top 10 Centenarian Secrets for a Happy Family

In the past 100 years, centenarians – individuals who have lived 100 years or more – have seen significant changes in the American family unit. Divorce rates have skyrocketed; women have taken on more breadwinning roles; parents are having fewer children and waiting until later in life to start their families.

But one thing has not changed: centenarians’ own families have significantly contributed to the joy they felt in their own lives. In a recent survey of centenarians from across the country, Holiday Retirement revealed that 84% of individuals who have lived 100 years or more attribute their health and happiness to spending time with family. In fact, when asked what they would change if they could do it all over again, more than one-third of surveyed centenarians say they would spend more time with loved ones.

In the survey, centenarians share their secrets to having a happy family, both by building a strong marriage and being a good parent.

5 Secrets to a Happy Marriage

In 1910, nearly 80% of households contained a married couple. That number dropped to 48% in 2011. Although marriage as an institution may be less common and more diverse in its definition today, centenarians’ perspective on what it takes to make a happy marriage stands the test of time.

The surveyed centenarians, two-thirds of whom were married for more than 40 years, advocate getting back to basics when it comes to building a relationship that lasts.

  • Make a stronger effort to communicate. Nearly one-third of the centenarians surveyed think communication is core to a happy partnership.
  • Say “I love you” more often. Relationship experts and 22% of surveyed centenarians agree: showing admiration and appreciation for your partner strengthens the relationship.
  • Spend more time together. While technology, work and family serve as constant distractions, 22% of surveyed centenarians encourage couples to unplug and spend some quality one-on-one time.
  • Make it work. Just as Tim Gunn famously uses these words to help designers get through seemingly impossible fashion challenges on Project Runway, one centenarian believes that internalizing the phrase “make it work” is essential to overcoming the trials and tribulations many couples will face in marriage.
  • Build mutual respect and understanding. One centenarian pointed to the importance of respect, trust and forgiveness in building a lasting relationship.

5 Secrets to Being a Good Parent

Today’s centenarians are well versed when it comes to raising kids; after all, they have thousands of years of combined parenting experience. In the early 20th century, adults began having children at younger ages and frequently had more kids. Today, the average American birth rate is 1.86 kids per woman; among centenarians in this survey, the median number of children respondents had was 2.6, and one respondent had more than 10 kids.

Though experience does not necessarily equate to expertise, the insight gained from raising children, then watching children raise children, and, even in some cases, grandchildren raise children, gives centenarians an unparalleled perspective on parenting. They offer these five secrets to being a good parent:

  • Spend more time doing things together. When the overwhelming majority of centenarians point to time with family and friends as contributing most to their happiness, it comes as no surprise that more than one-third of the surveyed centenarians encourage parents to spend more time with their kids.
  • Be stricter and discipline children. Although today’s centenarians may not have been “Tiger Moms,” 1 in 5 strongly believe in being firmer with children.
  • Be a good role model. 15% of surveyed centenarians agree with parenting experts that “do as I say, not as I do” is not necessarily a great parenting philosophy.
  • Put away your phone and computer. Centenarians do not love adults’ reliance on technology, likely because it distracts from the quality family time centenarians value so much. In fact, 75% of centenarians say the youth of today spend too much time on their cell phones and computers.
  • Be a better listener. One in 10 centenarians believe that listening to your kids will make you a better parent.

Though most of the centenarians’ advice centered on building strong relationships in the family unit, one insight highlighted the importance of broadening the definition of family. Almost 80% of centenarians polled feel that living in an independent senior living community had contributed to their longevity either somewhat or a great deal. For these centenarians, building an extended family inside of a retirement community has helped them build a healthy, happy, long life.

View the complete report, “100 Years of Wisdom: Perspective of Centenarians,” which also includes centenarians’ life lessons on personal finance, health and happiness, and longevity at