Nobody lives forever, but most of us try to delay the inevitable
as long as possible. Walter Breuning, a retired railroad worker
from Great Falls, Mont., succeeded at this better than most.
Breuning recently died of natural causes at the age of 114.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports
that the average age at time of death in the U.S. is just under
An amiable man with a fatalistic view of life, Breuning had a
life that spanned the entire 20th century. In 1896, the year of his
birth, the Klondike Gold Rush began. A decade later, Britain's
first modern battleship, HMS Dreadnought, was launched. Breuning
bought his first car in 1919 for the then-substantial sum of $150.
He was still a young man in 1927, when Yankee slugger Babe Ruth hit
60 home runs. Breuning witnessed the primitive years of human
flight, but lived long enough to see space travel become almost
After a long career as a railroad worker, he spent his final
years in a studio apartment in a retirement home.
Secrets for a long life
Theories about longevity are plentiful. Because lung cancer
remains a major killer, the CDC says one of the best things you can
do to prolong your life is simply to not smoke. Jack LaLanne, the
late exercise guru and TV personality, asserted that physical
fitness is the key to a long life. Author Henry David Thoreau
thought the key to eternal youth was maintaining your enthusiasm.
The world's oldest man had his own ideas, however.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Breuning offered this
advice about living long and well:
Accepting change, even when change is
No one ever said everything would go your way.
Limiting yourself to two meals a day
. At 5 foot 8 and 125 pounds, the lean Breuning restricted his
meals in his final years to breakfast and lunch, with lots of
fruit. He skipped dinner, but drank plenty of water.
Continuing to work as long as you are able
. After retiring from the railroad, he volunteered for the local
Shriners chapter until he was 99.
Finding ways to help others.
As Breuning told the Associated Press, "The more you do for
others, the better shape you're in."
The world's oldest man said acknowledging the inevitability of
death is one of the keys to enjoying a long life. Never be afraid
of death, Breuning said, because you're born to die.
An active mind
Elizabeth Lombardo, a clinical psychologist and physical
therapist in Wexford, Pa., says Breuning's commitment to working
late into life likely was responsible for keeping his mind active
far longer than most. This alone can prolong life, she says. "When
we have a sense of purpose, we are so much happier."
Dennis Kravetz, a psychologist based in Scottsdale, Ariz., says
one very important thing Breuning did was to maintain a positive
"This gentleman was right on," Kravetz says. "There is
compelling, powerful evidence that if people have a positive
attitude, particularly in retirement years, they live longer. It
means looking forward to the future. That is easy when you are 25
years old, but when you are 85 years old, you may say, 'Well, my
life is just about over with.' That creates your death."
Life insurance needs for 114-year-olds
Many people fear death less when they know that they have taken
steps to provide financial support to those they will leave behind.
One of the main reasons to
buy life insurance
is to provide for the people who depend on your income. If you have
dependents, "buy enough life insurance so that, when combined with
other sources of income, it will replace the income you now
generate for them," says Loretta Worters, spokesperson for the
Insurance Information Institute.
As you transition through life, be sure to review your life
insurance needs periodically. Whenever you shop for a policy, make
sure you are not seeking
life insurance quotes
for more protection than you truly need.
If you are in the running to be the world's oldest man or woman,
you likely don't need life insurance, Worters says. In most cases,
if you are a senior citizen with no dependents and you have an
estate large enough to pay your final expenses, there is little
need for life insurance.