Turning 98: Betty White’s Secrets to Longevity and Lifelong Happiness

Betty White

Photo source: @GoldenGirlsNews on Twitter

Happy 98th birthday to Betty White, Emmy-award winning actress and American icon! The lone surviving member of “The Golden Girls,” White was the oldest of the four leading characters; and many don’t know this, but she was originally cast as Blanche!

Throughout her long life, Betty has married three times, hosted and appeared on numerous game shows, and has volunteered to work with animals for more than 40 years. This past month, as Betty’s big day approached, she shared her secrets for longevity, as follows:

Have a Purpose

Betty’s love of her work as an actress, and the sense of purpose it gives her, is a major part of her years of active success. White also thoroughly enjoys crossword puzzles and animals. She acknowledges that keeping busy has been a crucial part of her long and productive life. She encourages others to find their passions and to run with them.

“It’s not hard to find things you’re interested in,” White told Katie Couric in an interview. “Enjoy them. Indulge them. And I think that keeps you on your toes.”

Having purpose has been linked to improved physical and mental well-being, and it’s also been shown to help protect your brain. According to a study described in Newsweek consisting of 6,985 adults over 50, “the stronger the participants felt they had a purpose in life, the lower their risk of dying.”

Richard Leider, author of “The Power of Purpose,” concurs and says “(o)ne of the great secrets of happiness — and also of longevity — is living with a sense of purpose. People who wake up with a sense of purpose live up to seven years longer than those who don’t.”

“If finding your purpose in life is too daunting at the moment, start small and find some things you love,” White suggests.

Support Something You’re Passionate About

Betty is actively involved in supporting lots of causes, many tied to things she loves, such as animals. She’s a trustee of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association and wrote a book called Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo. She’s also said she aspired to be a forest ranger or a zookeeper before she decided to pursue acting. In fact, she’s actually been made an honorary forest ranger.

Studies show that engaging in something you’re passionate about and that’s meaningful can have positive outcomes on your health and happiness.

Want to find something you’re passionate about supporting, but don’t know where to start? Check out this helpful article from “A Place for Mom.”

Live in the Moment

Betty focuses on living in the present and enjoying what life has given her. “I don’t think about things I might have missed out on,” she said.

In her Couric interview, she also gave advice for dealing with grief after loss, saying she focused on what was happening in the moment. “You don’t look ahead, and you try not to look back,” she told the host.

Although it’s difficult to be fully in the moment, practicing mindfulness can certainly help. Mindfulness can be defined as a therapeutic practice where people are encouraged to be fully in the present moment, and it’s often used as a way of managing and accepting thoughts and feelings. The idea behind mindfulness is to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations calmly and without judgement. Research clearly indicates that mindfulness really does have a positive impact on well-being, especially when it comes to seniors. Read more in my article, “The Secret to Well-Being for Seniors.”

Indulge Once in a While

Betty admits to never dieting in her entire life. She’s certainly a lucky one in this aspect! While speaking to Bon Appetit magazine, Betty admits that she “has a penchant for French fries, hot dogs, vodka and soda, red licorice, potato chips, and Diet Coke.” One co-star actually suggested that Betty’s long life is due to all the preservatives in her food!

Betty is an anomaly in this aspect, and quite lucky. Typically, most of us should follow a healthy diet if we want to live longer. There is no reason, however, that you can’t be like Betty and indulge in whatever you enjoy once in a while. Just make sure everything is done in moderation!

Be Positive

Betty is also an extremely positive person. According to Betty, “Enjoy life and accentuate the positive, not the negative!”

People who are optimistic like Betty have greater odds of achieving “exceptional longevity,” or living to 85 and beyond, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to the research “It’s not that people who are optimistic don’t get stressed or don’t get angry, but it happens less frequently. So physiologically, it puts them at less risk for all of the negative consequences that we know from stress.”

People are also more likely to form social connections because they see the good in people. Such bonds protect against loneliness, which comes with its own serious health risks.
Some people are naturally born to be more pessimistic, but it’s absolutely possible for them to learn how to be more positive! Want to be more positive? Train your brain to look for things you’re grateful for and to focus on the positive, rather than the negative.

Age is Nothing but a Number

In a 1991 interview with TODAY, Betty talked about the appeal of “The Golden Girls,” which centered on a quartet of senior citizens living in Miami. She emphasized how “age is just a number and nothing more.” According to Betty, “(y)ou don’t fall off the planet once you pass a given age. You don’t lose any of your sense of humor. You don’t lose any of your zest for life, or your lust for life, if you will.”

Keep Busy

Betty advises people to keep themselves busy. Betty told Katie Couric that keeping yourself busy is the key to staying happy and healthy. She said, “Keep busy, and don’t focus everything on you—that wears out pretty fast. It’s not hard to find things you’re interested in, but enjoy them, and indulge them and, I think that keeps you on your toes.”

Betty White is Doing Something Right! Follow Her Lead for a Long, Happy Life

Whatever the secrets are to her long life, Betty White is definitely doing something right. One thing is for sure: Her work brings joy to so many, and for that, we’re grateful. Happy birthday, Betty!

Live Longer and Plan for the Future

Remember, as you are being more positive, living mindfully, and supporting what you are most passionate about to maximize your longevity, it is also a good idea to plan for your future and for your loved ones. Our firm is dedicated to helping protect seniors by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. If you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please call us to make an appointment for an initial consultation:

Elder Law Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Law Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Law Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Law Attorney DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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