Successful survivors speak for themselves in this exhaustive study of the lives, attitudes, and lifestyles of more than 500 centenarians. A product of the late pioneer gerontological researcher Belle Boone Beard's over forty years of teaching, study, research, and writing in the field of aging, the book extends the author's belief that centenarians have a grasp of the essence of life itself. The volume, not a statistical research report, is based on the largest collection of data on centenarians to date. The centenarians describe their characteristics, lifestyles, and personal philosophies in response to questions such as: What characteristics and daily living patterns aided their longevity? and Do centenarians have answers about survival and successful living? Separate sections address the areas of health, education, socioeconomic status, work, social life, philosophy, romance, and individuality. Beard's insights regarding the personal characteristics and principles by which centenarians live contain some unexpected findings in the areas of social relationships and social environments. This posthumously edited volume is faithful to Beard's goals, writing style, and content themes.
The five-part volume begins with an introduction that contains an overview of centenarians from the point of view of the author's forty years of study. Part II describes some of the personal characteristics of centenarians' daily lives and points up important commonalities in actions, thought, and goals. Centenarians' contributions in the areas of work, family, and community are presented in Part III, which highlights their imagination, work ethic, and persistent romantic feeling about all of life. The focus of Part IV is on the relationship between personal growth achievements and national history. The last part reports on the study's findings and suggests further research implications. The appendices contribute documentation, fifteen short stories by or about centenarians, and a form for contacting the Belle Boone Beard Gerontology Center. Excellent supplemental reading for courses in Interdisciplinary Gerontology, Sociology of Aging, Psychology of Aging, and Demographics, this volume will also be of interest to any reader who wishes to learn about the correlates of extreme longevity.