Try this recipe for a long, happy life

Like too many women, Verona Johnston was widowed. Her husband, who was an Iowa physician, died at the young age of 83.
And that was 33 years ago.
Verona Johnston died last week in Ohio, where she lived with her 81-year-old daughter and her husband for the last six years. Although her daughter said, “She has always been proud to be from Iowa.”
At the time of her death, Johnston had the distinction of being the oldest person in the United States. She was 114 years old.
Johnston was a 1912 graduate of Drake University in Iowa.
At the time she went to Drake, tuition was $54 a year. But, said Johnston, “That was a lot of money back in those days, and I don’t know where I got it. But I’m glad I did.”
She was a Latin major and later taught Latin in high school.
After her husband’s death, Johnston travelled across Europe. Later she read lots of books until her eyesight failed. Then, with characteristic flexibility, she read large-print books with a magnifying glass.
And, finally, she enjoyed books on tape.
Johnston voted in every election since in 1920 when women got the right to vote. She even cast an absentee ballot this past November.
She lived a healthful life and rarely visited doctors. The secretary at her doctor’s office said Johnston had the thinnest file on record.
Drake University honoured their oldest alumna on her 114th birthday in August. Administration officials found Johnston delightful. Claudia Cackler said, “She was alert and sharp, with a perky humorous comeback for every question.”
This was echoed by 83-year-old Marie Baird in an article in the Des Moines Register. Baird, a neighbour and friend, said, “She was always very independent. Just a gracious lady. She used to have all the ladies over and have these wonderful waffle parties with fruit and sausage.
“She had the better health and was the only one that could do it.”
Johnston told the Des Moines Register that the recipe for long life must include a healthy pinch of good luck.
But there was more to her recipe for a long, happy life than luck, according to this poem she wrote at age 107.
“She grew and she grew, the way of all children, and how she holds on is truly bewilderin’ . . . This elderly lady of whom I just spoke, is still fond of living and likes a good joke.”
Research suggests that long life is no accident. According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, the oldest of the old are not merely random survivors, “but individuals who embody enviable attitudes and values.”
Some of the characteristics that Chopra says predict a longer life are superior intelligence, freedom from anxiety, independence in their vocations, enjoyment of life, and great adaptability.
That’s a very good description of 114-year-old Verona Johnston.
Although heredity obviously plays a significant role in achieving a ripe old age, a healthy lifestyle is more important. So why not try this recipe for a long, happy life.
Read books and keep your mind alive. Don’t worry and enjoy life. Be independent and, at the same time, be adaptable. And always be like Johnston—an elderly person who “is still fond of living and likes a good joke.”
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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