A healthy, active 100 year-old shares her tips for living a long, happy life

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By Serafina Kenny

Barbara Fleischman, 100, has led an illustrious life. She and her husband, the art dealer Lawrence A. Fleischman, left Detroit in 1966 and moved to New York, where they made their mark on the city for over 50 years. Fleischman volunteered for major organizations including Planned Parenthood and The Juilliard School, and she’s been a trustee of the New York Public Library for 40 years. Her husband served on a White House advisory committee on American art under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and co-founded the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.

Thanks to their philanthropy, the couple had a gallery named after them at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1983. They had two children, who are now 70 and 74. “I’ve just been a lucky lady all my life. First with a great husband, great daughters, wonderful friends, interesting activities, and a reasonable amount of good health,” Fleischman told Business Insider. “I am just blessed.”

Her husband died in 1997, and in September, Fleischman left her “pretty big apartment” near the United Nations headquarters in New York to move into an assisted-living home a few blocks away after her balance began to fail. Otherwise, she’s still active and healthy. While Fleischman’s privileged circumstances likely helped her reach 100 in good health, her secrets to healthy aging are accessible to most of us.

Here are three habits Fleischman has kept up during her life that may have helped her reach triple digits.

Staying busy and always learning: Fleischman stays busy in the assisted-living home by continuing to organize cultural events and talks for her fellow residents, which have featured speakers from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, and Carnegie Hall, to name a few. “I’ve been able to use my connections and friendships to invite people from organizations across the city to come and speak,” she said, “and I think people have really enjoyed it.”

Staying busy — having lots of tasks to do and little spare time — was linked in a 2016 University of Texas study to ​​better cognition, including better memory and faster processing of information, in older adults.

Related stories: Fleischman also continues to learn by watching video lectures about music from Juilliard. Learning as we age could help maintain cognitive function and slow the decline of spatial skills and memory, a 2018 study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia found.

Exercising: Growing up, Fleischman was not an “exercise freak,” she said, but she’s started working with a personal trainer to improve her balance and has “taken it in strides.” Being fit is an obvious way to improve longevity, and maintaining balance is an important part of that because it helps to prevent falls. The authors of a 2022 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people over 50 were less likely to die within 10 years if they could stand on one foot for more than 10 seconds and said that poor balance is linked to a shorter life expectancy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in people 65 and older. BI’s Gabby Landsverk recently reported on some of the best exercises for longevity and balance that don’t require a gym.

Strong relationships: “I have loads of friendships,” many of which she made through her work, Fleischman said. “It’s a pleasure to work together for a common cause and find that you have a lot in common,” she added. She also had a “wonderful marriage” with her late husband. Strong relationships are thought to be key to longevity. One 2019 study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggested that women who had an active social life were 41% more likely to reach the age of 85 than those who were isolated. Researchers from City University of Hong Kong found in a 2018 study that older people who volunteer are more likely to be physically and mentally healthier, happier, and satisfied. Fleischman, who calls herself a “professional volunteer,” said that helping others “gives her pleasure.”

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