Unbelievable Secrets to a Long Life (Can Music Be One of Them?)

I marvel at the life of Richard A. Overton, who lived to 112 years of age. His recipe for a long life was that he just did whatever made him feel good. Twelve cigars per day and maybe more (but he didn’t inhale), four cups of coffee each morning with a shot of whiskey (to keep the joints limber), and ice cream every night (because it made him happy)—It all seemed to work for him. He was the last living World War II veteran, the oldest living man in the U.S., who just passed away on December 27th.

His secret wasn’t necessarily his cigar, coffee, whiskey, and ice cream habits. It was that these habits made him happy. A sense of humor helped, too. When a reporter asked Overton to divulge his secret to a long life, he responded, “Don’t die.”

Others who lived beyond their 100th birthdays avoided the grim reaper by making a habit of being content. Their secrets to living long, happy lives are not dependent upon the traditional conventions of eating healthy and regular exercise.

Take Jessie Gallan, who died at 109 as Scotland’s oldest living woman: She believed in staying away from men and enjoyed a daily bowl of porridge. Leandra Becerra Lumbreras, who lived to 127 years of age in Mexico, also credited her long life to never tying the knot. Both ladies believed men were way too much trouble.

Vintage Guinness Ad
Doctors actually believed that Guinness beer was good for you, because of its high iron content

Other centenarians credited their choice of daily food intake as the key. Two pieces of dark chocolate followed by a nap every day worked for Eunice Modlin, a 102-year-old in Indiana. And then there’s Doris Olive Netting’s daily pint of Guinness, which she has downed for the past 70 years (maybe there is some truth to those old Guinness ads). And Doris, by the way, also had enough of men and divorced her husband early on. (I don’t know whether her Gunness habit started before or after that episode)

Bacon lovers, rejoice: Ruth Benjamin of Marshall, Illinois credits her 109 years to her love of bacon. Do you believe in throwing caution to the wind and ignoring the threats of salmonella? Emma Morano, of Verchelli, Italy, lived to the ripe age of 117 by eating three eggs per day, two of which were raw, for the last 90 years of her life.

Science proves that there are at least 58 ways to live longer. Statistically, snacking on nuts and berries while taking plenty of walks is proven to lengthen many lives, but do these activities actually make you happy??? Will they definitely add years to your life?

Artwork by Shel Moore
Close-up detail of artwork by Shel Moore (watercolor)

What do all of these centenarians have in common? They’re not online, and they made a habit doing whatever felt good to them, plain and simple. Maybe the attitude trumps the regimen.
Perhaps diving into just one soul-pleasing, non-digital activity per day is the only requirement.

My friend and colleague, Shel Moore is a gifted artist. Sure, by day, in her work life, she creates astounding graphic art for her own business and for her clients. But her talent (and her happiness) really shines when she logs off, pulls out the watercolors, and paints images of gorgeous ladies (I want to use her fanciful artwork in my next publications!). Shel obviously discovered the benefits of painting.

You’ve probably guessed my recipe for happiness—It’s playing the harp. Whether in front of an audience, in the recording studio, or playing for no one but myself, the lifelong practice of learning and playing music feels good to me. I love the fact that playing requires complete focus–Ignoring the phone, computer, and any other interruptions. And, as it turns out, it’s good for the brain, too:

Could it be that one-pointed focus is another essential element for this happiness elixir? After all, research shows that the focus required for playing an instrument rewards the musician with both physical and emotional health benefits.

What’s your elixir for happiness? What are you banking on as the recipe for your long life? I’m curious to know how often you do this activity, why it makes you happy, and of course, whether it helps you unplug from your workday and all those pesky digital devices.

Comment with your main secret to long life below, and as a thank you, I will send you one of my albums as a download of your choice. But here are the rules: Please, keep your comments clean (this is, after all, a G-rated website). And include an original idea, not something already mentioned in this article. (If you can’t think of anything to add but still want a CD or album download, sample and order them online at AmazoniTunesCDBaby, or Facebook, or call 530-541-2575 to use VISA, MC, or PayPal to get them custom-autographed just for you.)

Harpist Anne Roos Smiling
Doing what makes me happy (and increases my longevity)

Are you still seeking your own personal elixir for long life and happiness? Learn to play the harp! It’s fun and easier than you think…And you don’t need any prior music experience. Learn more about taking harp lessons from me–No matter where you live in the world!  Send a quick text message for more info, including rates.

Happy New Year!!!



  1. I think that other creative activities that I do might help longevity of life. My knitting and quilting projects give me goals to work towards and look forward to completing. Nothing can beat that sense of creative accomplishment!

    • Lovely ideas, Olivia, and they force you to be offline, too! I’ll be in touch via email regarding your free harp music download 🙂

  2. I try to be grateful for what I have. My mom told me to never stop dreamimg, that when we stop dream I’m going we stop living. One of those dreams was playing a harp. I haven’t been playing for a long time, but I do love what I have been doing.

    • Hi Martha! I assume a LOT of people will be responding playing the harp as one of their secrets to long life, and since I’ve already mentioned that in the article, I’m looking for other more novel ideas. And we should all have gratitude and keep dreaming in our hearts and in our lives, but how are you actually focusing on these practices, as a daily activity, in such a way that they command your focus and keep you offline?

  3. I have been a musician since 7 years, over 70+ years now! Being so has let me travel many roads, some not typically musical. But the skills acquired, have served me well. When we married my father, (the wedding officiant) advised us together to learn or do something new each year. We have tried many new things together. A key to long life can be willing to try new things, getting a thrill by learning a new skill, even if it’s not to perfection. When I retired I began playing the harp and doing so has been my reward. I enjoy hearing what others credit to living a long meaningful life!

    • Hi Jane! It’s wonderful hearing that you work at trying to learn new things, and that playing the harp has been one of them. Have a Happy New Year!

  4. I have been living in a wee condo house with three levels, it has two flights of stairs of 12 steps and 14 steps. I go up and down and down and up so many times during the course of the day I have never even thought of counting the times. I have just completed thirty-three years of retirement on the 30th December 2018. My first day of being on pension was December 31st 1985. I think the stairs are a blessing because of the exercise. No gym fees and no treadmill baloney around here.and also I remember my granny saying
    “The richest man in the world is one with a contented mind”
    I play my modest 25 string Roger Muma celtic (London Ontario) at least every other day if not more. I do not live to eat but eat to live.

    • Hi Jim! Taking the stairs all day long could possibly be that key to longevity (along with that contented mind, of course). Thank you for sharing your secret! I’ll be in touch via email for your free harp album download 🙂

  5. Hi, Gardening is a great activity. – it’s relaxing and keeps you ‘close to earth.’ There was a recent study pointing to gardening as one activity you can engage in to promote longevity.

    • Hi Sandra! I completely forgot about gardening! My husband swears by it as his key to longevity, too. I’ll contact you through email for your free harp CD download 🙂 Cheers!

  6. Hi Anne, I know you already mentioned it but playing the harp is mine too. I love starting out my day with harp…it makes me happy. And it also helps keep my brain active too. One other thing is a daily bowl of oatmeal with home made maple syrup and added nuts and raisins. 🙂 and staying connected with my children and grand children.

    • Hi Mary! You are like the centenarian mentioned above who liked her daily porridge 🙂 And as you can see by the other comments, it seems that we are all in agreement that the harp is definitely an elixir for long life. Happy New Year to you!

  7. Being a harpist, I find ‘harp music’ to be therapeutic, but music in general a soothing method of calmness. A busy brain is a good way of keeping the thinking mechanism going. In addition to harp practice, I assemble 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles, follow recipes to cook (from scratch), exercise galore (TRX, EQ, weights, Yoga cross training, cycling). With the exercise regiment, I learn from not only having studied with personal trainers, but having a small reference library on the subject of fitness, fascial release, performing correctly and maintenance. Whether music, art, or any other endeavor, there’s always a ‘science’ of it to be studied!

    • Oh, TW, you are the most disciplined person I know! (as you know, I am a fitness buff and a healthy nutrition buff, too). But I didn’t know you also work on jigsaw puzzles! I’ll email you with details for your free harp album download. And Happy New Year!

  8. I believe that being “other-centered” enriches my life and hopefully theirs, whether through volunteering or career. It keeps my focus away from self and motivates me to improve my harp skills to share, as well as to incorporate healthy self care into daily life. Certification as a therapeutic harper has been very rewarding, as well as weekly recording of a radio program for visually challenged listeners: a way to share my love for music and reading with others. It is a blessing and a secret to a long and healthy life. Oh, and good genes….my mother is 94.5!

    • Yep, I believe good genes is a big piece of the longevity secret, too (after all, if Richard Overton had bad genes, his 12-cigar-per-day habit would have done him in ages ago!

  9. Thank you for this question! Many friends have a spiritual community where, on Saturday or Sunday they gather inside to worship whatever their concept of a divine being or God is in their lives. These communities feed their souls and we’ll-being. For over 40 years, I have found that nature, in its beauty, wildness and sometimes cold and wet presentation, feeds my sense of place in this world. Reminding myself to be present in each moment releases me from the concept of aging as “bad.” I believe that learning to celebrate each day through a unique bird song or animal sighting, a flower that blooms, will contribute to my longevity, if not in years, then in my experience of living. Nature is my sanctuary!

    • Spiritual preservation is a big part of this–Did you see that Richard Overton also believed in regular church attendance and being involved in church activities?

      • Thanks! I did see that observation by Richard Overton. I consider religion and church attendance as very different from the spiritual act of being in the present moment, in nature., and finding one’s place in the world in that way. I’m an atheist. Presence in nature feeds my soul. I believe a well-nourished soul will enhance my experience of living, and living moment to moment will hopefully feel like a long life regardless of the number of years! I’ve enjoyed this interesting discussion!

      • Oh, but I don’t believe in regular church attendance or organized religion! I believe in a spiritual relationship with nature that enables positive feelings of one’s place in the world. Being present to all that’s around us makes life feel longer regardless of number of years. Thanks for encouraging this discussion!

  10. I start my day with meditation, qigong and Tai Chi, all focusing the mind. I end the day by playing harp, again focusing the mind. And during the day I let my mind be at peace when I walk the dog, I look for things that are blooming, listen to birds in the area chirping, and just breathe deep. I’m not sure this is going to help my longevity, as I’m still relatively young at 62, but it does help my temper and serenity.

    • Daily meditation and Tai Chi practice is a great example of a secret to longevity! I’ll be in touch via email for you free harp CD! And Happy New Year!!!

  11. Caring for pets is an elixir for longevity. They help us keep moving and keep smiling. Documented studies repeatedly demonstrate dogs, for example, lower our blood pressure. And I know my horse is a time machine; I become young every time he transports me on his strong back. And I stay strong doing the chores to care for him.

    • Ah, daily pet maintenance. Definitely a daily chore that is a secret to longevity. They are so wonderful, because they love us unconditionally! (Even Richard Overton, the 112-year-old WW II veteran, loved his cats). For me, it’s taking care of my bossy, but loving parrot 😀 I’ll be sending along an email to you regarding your free harp album download!

  12. I personally believe that quality is more important than quantity and resolve and resiliency rejuvenate. This new year will bring many changes for me, and I’m excited about exploring things I haven’t tried as well as revisiting things set aside for various reasons in the past. Sharing my abundance is a great change from a sense of lacking anything to contribute and lightens my spirits. Joy in nature and good people helps me cope with sorrow and other negatives. My mother’s recipe for her long life (95) was good companions, travel, and continuing to learn. To that I’d add: Make music and listen to/ tell stories, traditional or personal or other types. So many tales and tunes! I can hardly wait to share!

  13. C’est la 2e fois que je réponds à une de vos questions, et j’adore.
    Mon secret est de faire ma gym tous les matins dans mon lit, (oui, vous avez bien lu), ça me prend 10mn et je suis en forme, étirée, tonifiée. (tant pis pour ceux qui disent que ça sert à rien, qu’il faut la faire par terre, mais… eux, la font-ils ?).
    Un autre est ma curiosité, qui me fait apprendre ce que je ne sais pas encore, tous domaines confondus. Heureusement, je n’aurai jamais fini d’apprendre, il y a tant de choses que je ne connais pas. ça me fait travailler le cerveau !
    Et dernièrement, j’ai inversé les mains sur ma harpe, car je me suis profondément blessée l’index droit, donc je suis en train de réapprendre la harpe “pour gaucher” lol. Je pense que ça peut créer des circuits nouveaux dans mon petit cerveau…
    Merci pour la question et pour toutes les réponses, c’est très enrichissant.

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