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The doctor of a 114-year-old woman shares something we could all do to live longer — and it doesn't cost a thing

Gabby Landsverk   

The doctor of a 114-year-old woman shares something we could all do to live longer — and it doesn't cost a thing
  • Pearl Berg, who died this year, lived to be 114, the third oldest person in the United States and ninth oldest in the world.
  • Her doctor said she didn't have any extreme diet, exercise habits, or supplement routine.

One of the oldest people in the world made it well over the century mark without a strict diet of kale salads, expensive supplements, or even a specific exercise routine.

Pearl Berg was 114 years old when she died in February, making her the third oldest person in the US and the ninth oldest in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

The extraordinary thing about her age and her impressive health over the decades was just how ordinary she was, according to Dr. Jeremy Lorber, a hematologist-oncologist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles who worked with Berg.

"What I found somewhat remarkable was that there wasn't some odd or unusual thing that she did or didn't do," he told Business Insider. "It seemed like she just tried to live life to the fullest."

Extending lifespan is big business right now, exemplified in the multimillion-dollar regimens and cutting-edge technology touted by youth-obsessed entrepreneurs like Bryan Johnson. From longevity clinics to trendy supplements, brands (and influencers) are rushing to cash in on our desire to put off the inevitable — even if we have less power than we'd like to believe when it comes to postponing death.

"People who focus on longevity may find it a positive feeling to have a sense of control, even if it's not right for everyone," Lorber said. "A lot is luck - we don't choose the genes we're born with. I think people have misconceptions about how much control they have."

In contrast, Berg had a flexible, common-sense approach to her lifestyle, particularly when it came to sweet treats, her son Robert said in a statement.

"She never smoked, only had a sip of wine once a week at most, drank freshly squeezed OJ every morning, ate very few fatty foods, and had only a modest amount of dessert," he said. "Although, when she was 102, some of those constraints lifted—she wanted dessert every day—and by 106, she was asking for candy every morning and afternoon."

What did stand out about her routine was her habit of maintaining a strong social network and sense of purpose, staying engaged in the community through her synagogue, book clubs, volunteer work, and other activities.

While basic health habits such as not smoking or drinking can make a difference, longevity is less about any single factor and more about keeping healthy relationships and staying engaged with the world around you, since getting older can often lead to a sense of isolation, Lorber said.

"It kind of reinforced my thinking that there isn't one magical thing to do or not do," he said. "The things I identified in her and other patients that live long and live well is maintaining purpose, adding things or doing new things in their life."

Why healthy relationships and simple routines are good for a long life

Like Berg's example suggests, some of the best strategies for a long, healthy life are free. Habits like maintaining strong relationships, taking time to relax, and getting regular, gentle exercise like walking, playing games with family, or gardening have been consistently linked to better odds of living to 100 (or older) without breaking the bank.

And overcomplicating your routine to optimize your lifespan can backfire, especially if you end up cutting out things you love or forcing yourself into a strict or stressful routine, according to Lorber.

"With all the books and podcasts trying to squeeze every extra hour out of life, you don't want to be hyper-focused on longevity and add interventions that reduce the quality of life," he said.