Secrets to Surviving the Covid-19 Crisis According to Centenarians

Living in 2020 sucks, to put it bluntly. Covid-19 illness and death, sheltering-in-place, financial collapse, massive unemployment, businesses failing, corruption in government, the inept Trump administration, systemic police brutality and racism, white nationalism, the climate crisis… I could go on. How does one navigate one of the most challenging and troubling times in America’s history? In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood talks about the importance of perspective: “What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, criscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.” Amen to that.

Imagine being born in 1920 and witnessing some of the most turbulent times in American history: the Pearl Harbor attack, World War II, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, The Great Depression (1929-1933), the Vietnam War and protests (1955-75), Black Monday (1987), the 9/11 attacks (2001), the financial crisis of 2007-2008 — only to find yourself in 2020 where several crises seem to be rolled into one. It’s an exclusive club: people who have lived more than 100 years, known as centenarians. For the most part, they have lived a happy, fulfilling lives. So our question for them is: how did they do it?

In interviews, centenarians have generously shared their secrets to living a happy, fulfilling life; however, on another level, these insights can be viewed as the best way to get through these very challenging, uncertain times:

1: Happiness comes from what we do. Life is about really living and making memories with people you care about. ““I have so many beautiful memories. I got to do all the things I wanted to.”

2: Happiness comes from living in the now. You cannot live in the past, so don’t dwell on it — focus on the present.

3: Happiness comes from having a positive attitude and being optimistic. “Decide to be content. Don’t chase happiness. Just be satisfied.”

4: Love and a good partnership are critical for a long life. “Being happily married and happy in general is the remedy for all illness.”

5: Learn to adapt and change as circumstances changes. “Everything must pass.”

6: Be kind and help others.

7: Be curious: always keep learning

8: Eat well, get enough sleep, and take care of your health.

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Read related posts: Wisdom of a Grandmother
Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz

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4 responses to “Secrets to Surviving the Covid-19 Crisis According to Centenarians

  • rung2diotimasladder

    Should I believe Atwood: “…Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be” or the centenarian who said: “Happiness comes from living in the now”?

    For my part, I’d go with centenarian…just so long as the TV is either off or not turned to a news channel.

    • Alexander Atkins

      I wondered if readers would catch that nuance about the present. I believe that Atwood is talking about living in the present vs centenarian that is talking about living in the now. Two different things, as you noted. I agree with you, the centenarian is right. Another reader also commented on the necessity of turning off the news. Amen to that. Cheers and stay safe. Alex

  • aliterarybent

    8 good points. I’d also add point 9. Turn off the TV, ignore the news – It’s all propaganda and it’s never good news so turn it off….don’t get bogged down in it.

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