I Got Over the Fear of Aging. I Turned 100.

Mildred Macisaac, 100, and her 103-year-old sister, Agnes Buckley, are sister centenarians who participated in Boston Medical Center’s Long Life Family Study. Here, Macisaac shares a century of wisdom.

sisters centenarians agnes buckley mildred macisaac

From left: Sister centenarians Mildred Macisaac and Agnes Buckley. / Photograph by Jason Grow

Centenarians—people who live until at least 100—are considered models of healthy aging, thanks to their ability to delay or outlast disability and chronic conditions. In 2006, Boston University School of Medicine’s Thomas Perls launched the Long Life Family Study, a companion to his New England Centenarian Study, to examine clans for which such longevity is the rule, not the exception. A multi-institution undertaking with a site at Boston Medical Center, the project hopes to determine which traits these robust families share.

Many of those aging secrets lie deep in the subjects’ DNA, but the participants have accumulated no shortage of wisdom over the course of their lifetimes. Part-time Shrewsbury resident Mildred Macisaac, 100, and her 103-year-old sister, Agnes Buckley, are two of those participants. Here, Macisaac talks about getting older while staying young at heart, and her not-so-secret secret to a long life.

You turned 100 in August. How do you feel about birthdays at your age?

I have a big family, so we’re always celebrating birthdays. I do get excited. I got over the fear of aging. I turned 100, and it’s amazing that I could do it.

The oldest woman in America lived in Worcester, until she passed away at age 113 this year. Do you think there’s something in the central Massachusetts water?

I don’t know, but I’m doing the same thing I’ve done my whole life. I drank the waters and they seem to agree with me. I feel very healthy. I don’t have any pains or aches.

Is there a secret to your longevity?

I don’t think it’s a secret, but I like to keep very active. I’ve been doing exercise since my children were small. I can really move around easily.

Your seven kids now range in age from 63 to 74. What’s it like to watch them age?

They say to me, “We’re lucky to have you.” I feel as lucky as they do. I get along very well with all of my children.

You live by yourself in Maine for six months, then with your daughter in Shrewsbury for the rest of the year. Did you ever think about a nursing home?

I don’t feel as though I need to. If I had to, I would. But I have such a big family and they all seem to want me to come to their house. Laura, who I stay with right now, is the one who has the room, and we’re kind of close.

Did you work in your younger years?

I worked as an Avon manager for 20 years after I was married. Before I was married, I worked at R.H. White’s. That’s really showing my age.

Do you have a social network outside of your kids?

I had so many good friends, but they all went before I’m going. I had a lot of couples that my husband and I both knew, and boy, they went fast. I contact the children of the friends that I had.

What do you think is the most important invention from the past century?

The TV, and all those gadgets they have. I don’t have them. I just have a telephone and a TV. I let the children get all the new things. I enjoy seeing them, but I can’t be bothered. I like to read, though. I read a book every two days.

What are your plans for the future?

I think I’ve accomplished quite a bit with all my children, and then I’ve got so many grandchildren. And more coming, and more weddings—oh, my God. I can’t say that I want more accomplished, because I’ll be 101 next August.

Have you passed down any wisdom?

The only thing I can say is don’t dwell on the bad things. Always think of the good things and the exciting things in your life. It’s not going to do you any good to dwell on the bad things. I’ve always had a happy life. I’ve never been lonely. Well, I was lonely after my husband died, but you have to accept that and go along with your life and enjoy your children. That’s all.


Jamie Ducharme is the health editor of Boston magazine. She tried parkour so you don’t have to.

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