Centenarians share their secrets to see 100

POULSBO — In a coincidence that may become much more common, two Poulsbo residents, neighbors in an assisted living home, will turn 100 years old Sunday.

They play bridge, entertain guests and up until recently, enjoyed cocktail hour at Montclair Court Senior Living.

The secret?

There’s no secret, John Cremens said Wednesday, a few days shy of his 100th birthday. He admitted to smoking cigarettes and a pipe as a younger man —he quit long ago — and still enjoyed an evening martini up until a few years ago.

“I take each day as it comes, I try to enjoy it, whatever it happens to be,” he said. Later adding, “I’ve never analyzed it, never came up with an answer. It’s just life.”

Cremens worked as a salesman after receiving a degree in geology from the University of Chicago.

“He’s always been easy going,” said his daughter, Joy Herring. “Maybe that’s the secret to longevity.”

He is also seen spending time with two special lady friends, one on each arm — Cremens doesn’t use a walker.

He has a secret for that.

“Don’t try to make one person more important to you,” he said.

And then there is his sense of humor, still there.

“I tell him to behave himself,” Herring said. “I also tell him he’s older than dirt, and he agrees.”

As for the fact that two residents of Montclair Court are turning 100 on the same day is more than a coincidence for Sue Tidball, community sales manager.

“It’s a miracle,” she said, noting that Montclair Court has only two people who are (about to become) 100 years old. “I think the stars and the moon and the sun all lined up the same day.”

But what may seem monumental today may become commonplace for the next generation.

A Danish study reported last week claims that those people born after 2000 in wealthy countries will have a 50 percent chance of becoming a centenarian, and living well. The study, reported by the BBC, also said about 30 percent to 40 percent of people in their 90s living in industrialized countries live independently. A study in the United States of people 110 years old to 119 years old showed 40 percent needed little assistance or lived independently, the news service reported.

The trend is showing up locally.

In 2006, 25 people over the age of 100 died in Kitsap County, according to the county Coroner’s Office. Usually about 13 centenarians die each year since 1995 — the total since then is 196 — but so far this year 14 have died.

Healthier lifestyles and improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases are driving the upward trend.

But another trend that is emerging as more people live longer is a financial strain.

A Social Security Administration report published last year said one out of four people who are age 65 years old today will live to be at least 90, and one out of 10 will reach 95.

“By the time you reach 100 almost all your savings, investments and asset will have been used up, but Social Security will still be there supporting you,” said Kirk Larson, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration’s Seattle office. “It’s important to save and it’s important to save your Social Security benefits until you really need them.”

In another section of Montclair Court, Mary Ellen Plum uses a walker, but she does not use it slowly.

The retired draftsman likes to keep a cat around, she reads and entertains guests.

"I'm busy all the time," she said. "I talk to the cat a lot, people think I'm crazy."

"I do," said her son, Dick Plum.

In contrast to Cremens' breezy demeanor, Mary Ellen Plum has the dry wit of a comic, and she gives and takes it with her son.

What both Cremens and Mary Ellen Plum have is a sense of humor.

Mary Ellen Plum said she's not feisty.

"No, I'm very good natured."

"She's not easy going at all," Dick Plum said. "She's a ball of fire."

She gave credit to her cat, she gave credit to her son ("I hate to say it in his presence"), beyond that, after consideration, she offered a prescription for 100 happy years.

• Be lucky

• Try not to be grumpy

• Have good genes.

As for celebrating a century, Mary Ellen Plum is nonplussed, just another milepost on the highway.

"It doesn't seem to me like a big deal, I've had a hundred of these."

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