What’s the secret to longevity? Ask Edna Parker.

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When it comes to growing old, we might want to think our worldview. The reason is Edna Parker, the oldest person in the world.

Parker, who turned 115 at the Heritage House Convalescent Center in Indiana on Sunday, is living proof that modern science does not have all the answers. Looking at her, it is clear that the secret to aging doesn’t necessarily come in a bottle of vitamin supplements, from an all-carb diet, or a result of running to oblivion on the treadmill.

Just to give some perspective, when the supercentenarian was born in 1893, Grover Cleveland was president, the United States had not yet entered the Spanish-American War, horses instead of cars ruled the streets, and the United States was only composed of 44 states.

Parker has reportedly outlived her husband and her two sons, and has a slew of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. She is believed to be one of only 75 living people (64 women and 11 men) who are 110 or older.

How is she or any of these others living so long? That’s the $115 million question.

One thing’s for sure. In Parker’s case, it wasn’t Weight Watchers or other contemporary dietary inventions. Parker, who was born on a farm in Morgan County, IN, was raised on meat and starch. No one ate meals out of boxes back then.

She also wasn’t a worrier, her grandson says. That also flies in the face of our hyper-alert, germaphobic, exercise-obsessed culture of the 21st century.

Was it clean living? Perhaps. She never drank alcohol or tried tobacco and says she was active. (OK, that’s one for the treadmill.) She has always been thin, her grandson said. She reads and writes poetry and reads the newspaper everyday.

Then there are the genes. That could also be something. Parker had two sisters who lived into their 80s and 90s.

Why is she still around? I think all these factors contribute. I also have a hunch that for a woman who survived the Great Depression, two World Wars and the deaths of her husband and children, attitude has something to do with it as well.
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McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.


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