Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias I repeated a yearly ritual Sunday.

I stopped by the open house celebration of Mabel Jorgenson�s birthday at the Sioux Valley Vermillion Care Center.

Mabel has just turned 107.

I wasn�t the only person at the event wondering if Mabel has attained the prestigious rank of South Dakota�s oldest person.

One of her guests asked me if Mabel could be oldest resident in the state. I could only shrug my shoulders and say �Don�t know.�

U.S. Census information about South Dakota doesn�t offer much help.

It only states that about 14 percent of the state�s population, and about 10 percent of Clay County�s population, is at least 65 years old.

It�s safe to say that Mabel, who was born three decades after the end of the Civil War and the assassination of Lincoln, is among an elite group of the world�s oldest people.

Edison had invented the light bulb less than two decades before her birth. The first automobile appeared just six years before Mabel did.

During her lifetime, the Wright Brothers invented the airplane, Lindbergh made the first transatlantic flight from the U.S. to France, and our country suffered through the Dirty Thirties and the Great Depression.

How many wars has the United States fought in your lifetime? The U.S. entered the Spanish American War not long after Mabel was born.

During her lifetime, our troops have fought in two world wars, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Mabel was a spry 73 years old when Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon.

Mabel sat, dignified, during Sunday�s event held in her honor.

I�d love to sit down and have a long talk with her, but her hearing has declined over the years, making the art of conversation difficult.

I�d just like to ask her one simple question: How? How have you been able to beat the odds and live well beyond what�s considered the normal life expectancy for a woman these days?

It�s believed that the world�s oldest person is Elizabeth (Ma Pampo) Israel, who is 128 years old. Born in Portsmouth, Dominica, and the daughter of a slave, she started working on a plantation at the age of 25 and retired 79 years later.

Ma Pampo ascribes her longevity to her diet � including lots of dumplings and bush tea. She has survived her husband and two children. There are at least 17 centenarians in Dominica (with four residing in close proximity to Ma Pampo), from a population of 70,000 making it the country with the highest concentration of centenarians per 1000 of the population.

Dominica�s pristine and largely unpolluted environment, has been cited as the main reason for longevity on the island.

So, how long will you live?

It depends on a number of factors � some that you can control, and some you can�t control.

How long you have already lived is one of the best predictors of how long you may live. Life expectancy has been continually increasing for years as there is growing awareness of personal health maintenance and better medical care. That�s good news for me.

Ever since records have been kept, women have outlived men. Not good for me.

Maintaining normal blood pressure is important to living longer. Mine has always been normal, thank goodness.

I need to shed a few pounds, however. And I should exercise more. An active lifestyle is good insurance against both heart disease and cancer. These are factors I can control. I have no say over my family history. Both my dad and my uncle died at relatively young ages.

I wear my seatbelt. Other then a fender bender during a snowy day this winter, I haven�t been in a traffic accident for years.

I don�t smoke, drink or take �recreational� drugs.

I�ve found a Web page where you can enter data about your lifestyle and family history to predict your life expectancy.

If all goes well, it looks I could almost hit age 80. I�d be happy with that.

But still, I wonder � what�s Mabel�s secret to long life?

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