St. Louis Centenarians Share their Secrets to Long Life

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The vast majority, nearly 83 percent of centenarians are women in the United States according to the U.S. Census, and two of them currently live in St. Louis. The Census Bureau says there are nearly 54,000 centenarians in the United States and 316,000 worldwide.

Vivian Zwick and Carol Duhmey, both born in 1917, live at the Gateworth, a senior living community in St. Louis County.

Each woman shared memories of life in the 20’s and 30’s, like riding the streetcar, deliveries from the milkman in his horse drawn carriage and for Vivian, sleeping outside under a tree in Forest Park on hot summer nights because no one had air conditioning. Both women have college degrees. Carol from Vassar and Vivian from Washington University, but for Vivian, there was an interruption in 1937.

“I went to college right after high school, right out of University City high school, and I went for two years and then I got married. In the 1930s, you did not go to school married, that isn’t what people did,” Vivian says.

She went back though in 1957, graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in history in 1960.

Vivian stopped driving after her son and daughter came to her two years ago.

“They said ‘Mom, we’ll get you a driver’. And my driver is 93-years-old,” Vivian says.

Carol still drives herself around town, and while she doesn’t drive downtown at night, calling that unwise, she says she likes being able to come and go when she wants to.

“Like a cocktail party, something you go to and you don’t like it, you can just say hello and leave,” she says. “You have your own car, you can do that.”

And while the Census Bureau notes that more and more people in the U.S. Are living to be 100, the secret is still a mystery. For both ladies, staying active physically and mentally has helped them stay sharp.

“I’ve been a volunteer since I was 15 years old, and I kept it up and I’m still a volunteer,” Vivian says. “I think being involved with people is totally helpful.”

“I think the thing that people don’t realize and I wish they did, is how rewarding it is to you,” says Carol of her own volunteer experience.

Both feel life today is missing something, like not knowing your neighbors and not talking to each other more. Neither has a computer, although their children have offered.

“I said I’d rather hear your voice,” Vivian says, rather than email from her kids.

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