Centenarians Fitness

Where centenarians give us life lessons on longevity

AleykuttyThomas1   | Photo Credit: AleykuttyThomas1

Making it to your 100th birthday is not altogether beyond our control, as these centenarians testify. They’ve made lifestyle choices to improve their odds of a long and healthful life. Simplicity, discipline, and an active life seem to be their main allies.

A SUSAI, 100, Jumbuliapatti, Dindigul, Tamil Nadu

Always on the go

“Growing old is a natural process everyone experiences,” says A Susai, born the year that saw the end of the First World War. “The secret to getting to this age is work. I have never stopped; it keeps me going,” he says, flashing a toothless smile. Susai retired as the Head Postmaster of Nagapattinam in 1978 and remains active in his retired life, working as a farmer. Father to 12 children, grandfather to 26, and great-grandfather to 13, his family is settled in different parts of the world. “They take turns to visit me,” he says.

A Susai

A Susai   | Photo Credit: S_James

No eating out

From the day he retired, Susai turned to tilling the land he owns in his backyard. On three acres he has been growing paddy, guava, banana, papaya, mango, jackfruit, coconut, greens and a variety of vegetables that go into preparing his daily meals. “My wife passed away in 2015 at the age of 90. She enjoyed cooking, and for four decades I had only home food. A house help now cooks for me.”

The farm-to-fork fresh food keeps Susai healthy. He does not miss a meal, but eats light and is particular about eating greens at least four days a week. “I am not on any medication,” he says.

Connecting with Nature

It is his daily habit of walking in the fields that keeps him fit for his age. “My knees are not cooperating now,” says Susai, who has a steel implant in his leg following an accident in 2008. Until 10 years ago, he was using public transport, but after he fell down while alighting from a bus and underwent surgery, it has slowed him down.

Yet, the love for greenery draws him to the fields every day. “I use a walking stick to move around, checking and talking to my plants,” he says, adding, “Being in communion with Nature is balm for the mind and the body.”

Susai could not attend college because as the oldest of four siblings he needed to take care of his family following his father’s early death. “After finishing school, I worked as a construction worker on daily wages, earning 18 annas a week in the 1930s. After joining the Postal Department, my job took me to various places,” says Susai, who is now penning his life’s story. Every night, he writes a page or more and it has a cathartic effect, he says.

Love and music

Does loneliness get to him? “After waking up every day, I talk to my wife’s photograph by the bedside. I ask her whether she remembers me each day as I do her. This little conversation keeps me energised.” Afternoons are spent listening to Carnatic and church music. “It keeps me relaxed and peaceful.” But he’s also happy when people around him are happy. “The positive vibes from them add years to my life,” says Susai.

Aleykutty Thomas, 102, Kuravilangadu, Kottayam, Kerala

Aleykutty Thomas came to the house in Kuravilangadu in 1930, as a young bride and raised her family of nine children. A farmer at heart, she grows paddy, tapioca and other root vegetables and continues to enjoy the fruits of her labour.

Good food and walking

“A long, healthy life requires good habits,” says Aleykutty, who wakes up at 5 am to say her prayers and take a walk around the house. “Genes play a role, but the rest is up to you,” she shares over a telephone conversation. She has always done manual labour, she says, along with lots of walking, and that is what has helped her reap the rewards with almost no health complaints. She does not rely on any daily medication. “My eyesight is good and I don’t have BP, sugar or cholesterol,” she says. “My medicine is my food. All my life I have eaten plenty of greens and root vegetables and that is the secret to my long and healthy life,” she declares.

Discipline and hard work

She would go to the fields with her husband, return, and cook the family meal. Even today, Aleykutty maintains that discipline. “I wash my clothes, help my daughter-in-law in the kitchen and babysit when she is away,” says the grandmother of 16 and great grandmother of 28.

Reading and singing

Aleykutty says her husband inculcated the habit of reading in her. “I made it a habit to read the local Malayalam daily after my morning cup of tea. It is important to stay mentally sharp, and when I keep myself abreast with current news, my company is livelier.”

Fond of music, Aleykutty also loves to sing devotional songs. “It keeps my mind calm,” says the God-fearing woman of few words. She attributes her longevity to more than just good genes: “I am positive, have faith in life and people and am blessed by God.” That she has outlived four of her children hurts her. But having attended the weddings of all her grandchildren and even a few great grandchildren brings back the joy.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 9:55:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fitness/two-centenarians-share-life-lessons-on-longevity/article25870080.ece

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