Wednesday, 28 March 2018 10:36

Secret to a long life revealed by 105-year-old Maple Creek woman

Written by  Dominique Liboiron
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Hazel Foster turned 105 on Family Day. Her family and friends gathered at Cypress Lodge Care Home in Maple Creek to celebrate. As part of the celebration, Foster played “Happy Birthday” on the piano from memory. She enjoys music and dancing. Hazel Foster turned 105 on Family Day. Her family and friends gathered at Cypress Lodge Care Home in Maple Creek to celebrate. As part of the celebration, Foster played “Happy Birthday” on the piano from memory. She enjoys music and dancing.

Contrary to popular belief, your genes aren’t what determine how long you’ll live.

 

Other factors decide whether or not you’ll reach a ripe old age. Maple Creek’s Hazel Foster, 105, shared her secret to longevity with the Prairie Post and science supports what she said.
Foster was born at home in Pense, Sask. on Feb. 19, 1913 and one of her very first memories is when World War One ended in 1918. She recalls her dad set off firecrackers as a way to celebrate the Armistice. 
Her parents, Henry and Elsie Lovell, were both from England. Her father came to Canada and worked in Regina for a year then he sent for his wife. The couple moved to Pense where Foster’s father was a barber. The Lovells had four children, a girl and three boys. “I’m the oldest and I’m still kicking,” Foster joked.
Foster shared her insights about longevity on her 105th birthday, which was Family Day. Her friends, relatives and fellow residents of Cypress View Care Home gathered in the building’s common area for a party and heard Foster play Happy Birthday on the piano. She played from memory and didn’t need any sheet music.    
Unfortunately, none of her brothers were in attendance. Foster is the only one of her siblings still living. If genetics were the major factor in determining how long a person lives, it would stand to reason that her brothers should still be alive. After all, the boys and Foster shared similar genetics and as an added advantage her brothers were all younger than her. However, studies have shown genetics don’t predict lifespan.
In the interest of learning more about longevity, researchers Michel Poulain and Gianni Pes along with author Dan Buettner identified the five places on Earth where people live the longest. These five locations are known as Blue Zones. By studying the residents in these regions, many of whom live to 100 and beyond, Poulain, Pes and Buettner revealed that genetics have little bearing on longevity compared to lifestyle and beliefs. Their findings coincide with the reason why Foster thinks she’s had such a long life.
The five Blue Zones are the island of Ikaria in Greece, the city of Loma Linda in California, Costa Rica’s Nicoya region, as well as the islands of Okinawa in Japan and Sardinia in Italy.  The researchers looked at the commonalties in each place and found that a positive attitude was one of them.
Although she has faced ups and downs in life, Foster credits her dad for teaching her how to overcome the bumps in the road. Her dad’s philosophy was to think positive and to not worry about the future. As an example, Foster lost her first husband, Aksel Nielsen, in a tragic accident. Nielsen was originally from Denmark and the couple married on Oct. 4, 1934. He died in a fire in 1941 leaving his widow with three young children. Foster doesn’t shy away from the fact life wasn’t always easy, but the hard times never got the final word. She believes she has lived to 105 because her attitude was to never let life get her down. “I just enjoy life, period,” she shared.
Of course, attitude alone won’t guarantee longevity. Based on the Blue Zone research, seniors who want to increase their odds of living to at least 100 would do well to also foster strong social bonds with like-minded individuals and to create a network of friends. Maintaining strong social bonds, either with friends, family or both, can be a way to make individuals feel connected to other people. This sense of belonging is an effective way to combat loneliness and depression, two conditions whose ability to dramatically reduce life expectancy is only now being fully appreciated.
Despite the challenges in Foster’s life, there were joys in life, too. “I have three children I’m proud of,” Foster said and she also has fond memories of being in a band. Her other interests, which also provided her with opportunities to create social bonds, included playing cards and dancing. Even to this day, Foster enjoys socializing.
In 1948, Foster married Bill Fletcher and they shared 25 years together before he succumbed to a heart attack. In 1978, she married Jack Foster who later passed away from old age.
For Hazel Foster, her ability to maintain a positive outlook and to create social bonds served her well. These factors contributed to her long life more than genetics.
According to the data gathered by studying the Blue Zones, seniors can boost their odds of living to 100 or more if they follow this advice: don’t smoke, derive most of your nutrition from plants, eat legumes, partake in constant moderate physical activity and put your family first.
In reality, genetics don’t determine lifespan. Furthermore, there’s is no secret to living a long life. We simply have to imitate the beliefs and practices of people who live to ripe old ages.

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