Iowa's elderly may have secret to longevity - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa's elderly may have secret to longevity

Dubuque centenarian Clara Richman said being friendly to people is one key to a long and happy life. Dubuque centenarian Clara Richman said being friendly to people is one key to a long and happy life.

This week, the Iowa Department on Aging honored more than a dozen centenarians - people at least 100 years old. That was at an event in Des Moines.

Data from the 2010 US Census rank Iowa third in the nation for percentage of the population over the age of 85.

Certainly Clara Richman has the secret to longevity. After all, this lifelong Dubuquer has seen more than 100 years of history.

"Oh, I don't know, be friendly, I guess, to people and stuff like that," Richman said Thursday afternoon at Stonehill Franciscan Services, where she lives. She turns 101 on Friday.

"What is the secret?" 82-year-old Ruth Slotten said. "The secret is to get up and not feel sorry for yourself. Get out and do something. Make use of every minute that you have. And every day is a good day, even though it's a bad day."

Even during post-hip surgery therapy at Stonehill, Slotten doesn't flinch from her sunny outlook.

"My mother and my grandmother taught me that, and I won't ever forget it," she said with a laugh.

Stonehill's therapy director Rachel McDermott owes Iowa's robust aging population to industriousness.

"In Iowa, in the Midwest, I really think it comes down to those core values that we've had of really working hard," McDermott said.

She also cited changes in the approach to therapy.

"The way that we look at the aging population and how we treat them is just so differently than what we used to. It used to be you very seldomly saw an older person unless it was very needed and it was more comfort measures," McDermott said. "Now, it's just totally different. It's really about enhancing their quality of life."

Perhaps, however, there is something as being too old.

"They don't make good wheelchairs for 120 years old," Slotten said playfully.

Numbers from the 2010 US Census show 13 percent of the nation's population is at least 65 years old. That percentage is projected to jump to nearly 20 percent by the year 2030.

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