Unusual Health Habits of the Oldest People Who Ever Lived

An image of an elderly man in a blue shirt.

Unusual Health Habits of the Oldest People Who Ever Lived

Getting old isn’t for everyone, but with a growing number of centenarians, aging gracefully is becoming more common worldwide. Pew Research Center expects the number of centenarians in the U.S.A. to quadruple in the next 30 years. Modern medicine has made it much easier to keep people alive and, thus, people live much longer than they used to. The life expectancy varies by region, but developed nations are seeing a huge boom in people living well into their sunset years. However, not all of this can be attributed to modern medicine. There are also important habits practiced by the oldest people in the world that help them stay healthy and strong. Let’s examine those habits.

Bernando LaPallo (Claimed 114 Years Old): Massaging One’s Feet in Olive Oil

Several bottles and dishes of extra virgin olive oil.
Anointing his body with olive oil was Bernado LaPallo’s secret to longevity.

A resident of Brazil, Bernado LaPallo (Claimed 1901-2016) was said to have lived 114 years before passing away in 2016. He attributed his long life to many things, including a healthy diet filled with foods that are thought to prolong one’s life, such as garlic and honey. LaPallo ate a bowl of oatmeal every single day without fail. He preferred food that was organic and ate many raw foods, such as raw honey.

However, he had one particularly unusual habit that he credited for his longevity: massaging his feet in olive oil. His feet weren’t the only part of his body that received regular olive oil treatments. He also used olive oil instead of hair gel and retained ⅔ of his hair until his death. He also practiced more typical health routines, such as daily exercise and sleep hygiene.

Jessie Gallan (109 Years Old): Staying Away from Men and Eating Porridge

A wedding ring set with a sapphire.
Proud of her choice not to marry, Jessie Gallan recommends that women seeking longevity stay away from men.

Jessie Gallan (1906-2015) was Scotland’s oldest woman before she passed in 2015 at 109 years old. She had many theories as to why she lived to be one of the oldest people in the world. However, most of them seem to be a simple lack of unnecessary stress. Unlike many women of her time, Jessie was never married and openly attributed her longevity to the fact that she stayed away from men, finding them to be more trouble than they were worth.

She also recommended eating porridge as a theory for longevity, as she ate a bowl of porridge daily. She entered the workforce at 13 years old and worked hard her whole life.

Duranord Veillard (111 Years Old): Getting Up at 5:00 A.M. and Doing 5–7 Push-Ups

Daily push-ups were part of Duranord Veillard’s routine for his entire life.

Before moving to the United States in 1967, Duranord Veillard (1907-2018) worked as a lawyer and a judge in Haiti. His wife and children followed him a few years after he immigrated to the United States, and both he and his wife eventually became centenarians.

Duranord was the son of a Haitian fisherman and he led a very active lifestyle until he passed away. At 111 years old, he recommended that those who wanted to live well into their hundreds get up at 5:00 a.m. and engage in regular exercise. He was known for doing 5–7 push-ups in the morning, which is more than a lot of people in America can do at all!

Alexander Imich (111 Years Old): Not Drinking Alcohol

Alexander Imich advocated for a dry lifestyle for those who sought longevity.

The son of a Polish Jewish family, Dr. Alexander Imich (1903-2014) was a parapsychologist, zoologist, and writer who resided in New York City until his death. During his life, he served as the President of the Anomalous Phenomena Research Center in New York City.

He claimed that his secret to longevity was that he refused to drink alcohol. There may be something to this claim as studies show that alcohol’s dehydrating effects age you faster. Overconsumption of alcohol can also lead to immediate death. While there may be something to the idea that overconsumption of alcohol should be avoided for longevity, there is also plenty of evidence that wine in moderation can have health benefits. So, this one can go either way depending on your habits.

Jiroemon Kimura (116 Years Old): 腹八分目 (Not Overeating)

Jiroemon Kimura advocated that people who seek longevity not overeat, adopting 腹八分目 into their lifestyles.

The Japanese have a saying “腹八分目” (pronounced “hara hachibunme”) which means “eat until you’re 80% full.” Jiroemon Kimura (1897-2013) attributed much of his long life to his habit of eating small portions and not overeating, as well as regular exercise, social engagement, and sunbathing. Like many of the oldest people on this list, Kimura would rise early and ensure he exercised every day to keep his body in good condition. He also loved to sunbathe, which he believed allowed him to have strong bones and muscles.

Kimura also remained engaged in his community and government, which likely improved his cognition as he aged. He kept up with parliamentary debates and read the news every day until his death.

Emma Morano-Martinuzzi (117 Years Old): Eating Raw Eggs

A container of brown eggs.
Emma Morano-Martinuzzi ate 3 eggs per day and she ate them raw!

There are over 20,000 registered centenarians in Italy, such as the late Emma Morano-Martinuzzi. Morano-Martinuzzi (1899-2017) was the oldest living person from 13 May 2016 until she passed on 15 April 2017, the oldest person ever in Italy, and the last registered person who was born in the 1800s.

Morano-Martinuzzi attributed her longevity to many factors. However, she cited one prevailing factor in multiple interviews as being the reason she lived so long: eggs. In 2013, she stated in an interview that she ate three eggs per day. In 2016, she further elaborated that she ate raw eggs and cookies as her primary diet and credited her longevity to that.

Alfred Date (110 Years Old): Knitting Sweaters for Needy Penguins

An oil painting of penguins.
The Penguin Foundation accepts donations of knit sweaters they can use to protect penguins who have been affected by oil spills.

Alfred “Alfie” Date (1905-2016) was Australia’s oldest man until his death in 2016. However, his position as the oldest man in Australia wasn’t what he was best known for. His greatest accomplishment as a senior was knitting sweaters for needy penguins. Wildlife organizations such as the Penguin Foundation did public outreach asking for assistance in knitting jumpers for penguins affected by oil spills. The knitted garments act as barriers, preventing the penguins from getting at their oily feathers with their beaks, which could lead to dangerous ingestion of the oil.

Alfie went viral at 108 years old when the Australian news reported that he spent his days knitting sweaters for penguins. He went viral a second time when an image was shared of Date with his knitting needles next to a group of penguins wearing sweaters.

Downing Jett Kay (112 Years Old): Drinking Lots of Coffee

Black coffee was Downing Jett Kay’s secret to longevity.

Downing Jett Kay (1907-2020) was the daughter of clothier Robert Jett and his wife Lillian Downing Jett. She was Maryland’s oldest verified resident until 2020 when she passed away at 112 years old. Downing loved Scrabble and played avidly until her passing.

Each day she started her day with lemon juice and she drank what her obituary describes as “endless half-cups of black coffee.” Coffee was her secret to longevity. She recommended that those looking to increase their lifespan drink as much coffee as they could fit in their stomachs.

Richard Overton (112 Years Old): Adding Whiskey to His Coffee and Smoking 12 Cigars a Day

A hand over some papers holding a cigar.
A documentary was made about Richard Overton, the former oldest surviving U.S. veteran.

Richard Overton (1906-2018) was previously the world’s oldest American man and also held the title of America’s oldest surviving W.W. II veteran. His story gained notoriety and fame after he told Fox News that he spent his Memorial Day “smoking cigars and drinking whiskey-stiffened coffee.”

He was the subject of a documentary that explored his daily routine and secrets to longevity. Overton was known for smoking around 12 cigars a day even as he aged. He eventually became a supercentenarian shortly after becoming the oldest surviving veteran.

Adelina Domingues (114 Years Old): Not Going to Beauty Shops

A beauty shop operator working on a client with rollers in her hair.
A lack of vanity and preoccupation with beauty was Adelina Domingues’ secret to longevity.

Adelina Domingues (1888-2002) followed her husband, Jose Manuel Domingues, to the United States after he emigrated from Cape Verde, an island in the Atlantic that was once a Portuguese colony. She lived in Boston and New Bedford, Massachusetts. During her life, she engaged in missionary work and street preaching. She lived independently until she was 107 years old. After that, she moved to a retirement facility.

She credited her long life to her lack of vanity, stating that she never stepped foot in a beauty salon throughout her entire life. When she passed in 2002 at 114 years old, she was the oldest undisputed living person born in 1888 or before.

To top