CREST HILL – Two residents of Willow Falls Senior Living Community in Crest Hill are part of a growing trend – celebrating their 100th birthdays.
Carolyn Chaplin turned 102 on Oct. 21. Stan Mikulich celebrated his centennial Friday at Al’s Steak House in Joliet with his family.
“I feel the best,” Chaplin said. “I can’t feel any better. I’m lucky.”
Still, Mikulich wishes he was younger.
“That’s all I can say,” he said. “I enjoyed my younger life.”
The number of centenarians has doubled in the United Kingdom, according to a 2014 CNN article, and the population in the United States is seeing a similar trend as the long-term effects of advances in health care technology and vaccines, more health consciousness and other measures add up.
Chaplin said she never “exercised,” but she was always active. She said her family was a church-going one, and she still attends services today. Chaplin attributes her longevity to her outlook on life.
“I was just a good girl,” Chaplin said. “I was always happy. I was kind to people. I never let them down. I took every day as it came.”
Mikulich said he’s healthy and feeling pretty good these days, and laughed when asked how he managed to live so many years.
“I don’t know,” Mikulich said. “I can’t figure it out. I do like to go to the casino once in a while.”
Mikulich said he lived an active life, ballroom dancing up to six nights a week in Joliet, Wilmington, Coal City, in Indiana and “all over Chicago.” His favorite dances were the waltz and the foxtrot.
He also roller-skated when he was younger. He remembers a favorite location in Chicago – The Melody Mill – where there was skating downstairs and dancing upstairs.
Mikulich does admit to having a few bad habits in the past – drinking and smoking – but he gave them up. Today, Mikulich said he doesn’t even need any medications.
He’s a member of the Joliet Loyal Order of Moose and the Joliet Rivals Club. He also attends Joliet senior citizen events.
“I drive my own car, too,” Mikulich said. “It’s a good life.”
Dr. David Vermillion, an internist at Allen Medical Center in Morris, said many centennials do have some things in common.
“They’re not overweight; they watch what they eat; and they have good genes,” Vermillion said. “You’re going to see strong family histories of living long. By far, the most important thing is good genetics.”
But good nutrition, Vermillion said, also plays an important role in living a long, healthy life, but not necessarily sticking to a rigid diet every day. Moderation, he said, is key.
A little red meat is fine, Vermillion said, as is an occasional glass of red wine. Certain tree nuts and a little dark chocolate may contribute to longevity, and basing meals on the foods and beverages of the Mediterranean diet also seems to help.
“Avoid smoking,” Vermillion said. “That’s the important thing. Cigarette smoking and second-hand smoking.”
However, an occasional cigar or pipe does not give much smoke exposure to the lungs, he added.
“If you want to have vices,” Vermillion said, “have them in moderation.”
Staying active also is important. Vermillion said walking and other exercise keep the circulation healthy. Those who plan active retirements with hiking and traveling usually live longer, healthier lives.
Lowering stress levels also is important. Vermillion said the effects of stress can lead to high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes and a lot of vascular disease.
Mostly, Vermillion feels quality of life is the measure of a good life, not length of days. Chaplin agreed.
“Enjoy yourself,” Chaplin said. “Enjoy it as you’re going along. There’s no need in being grumpy.”
• Being with people helps you live longer. One study found social isolation and loneliness can be as life-threatening as obesity.
• Research shows having a big belly can almost double your mortality risk, even if your body mass index falls within the healthy range.
• Being married reduces the chance of premature death in midlife.
• People who feel they have meaningful lives outlive their peers who do not, according to another study.
• People who live to 100 tend to be conscientious, extroverted and open.
• Those who get about seven hours of sleep every night live a longer life.
• Looking young and healthy has been found to be a determining factor to living longer.
• Chances are you’ll have a longer life if you’ve given birth to a child after the age of 33.
• Seniors who regularly attend church services live longer than those who don’t.