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Vista del Monte Centenarians Share Their Secrets for Longevity

Residents Howard Merrill and Madeline Boyer the focus of the retirement community's 'fireside chat'

Vista del Monte, a Santa Barbara retirement community, held its sixth “fireside chat” on May 26 in the library of the facility. The “chats” feature different residents each time and cover a multitude of topics.

The most recent theme was longevity, discussed with residents Howard Merrill and Madeline Boyer, both older than age 100. They began the talk by recounting brief histories of their lives.

Merrill said he spent most of his time growing up in Connecticut, but his early years were spent in a few different homes on the Eastern seaboard, such as New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont.

As a young man, Merrill took advantage of exploring his rural home and cultivated a passion for the outdoors at a young age. He spent most of his career working for the Federal Wildlife Service as a research biologist.

Boyer was born far from the coast, in a small town in Nebraska. After graduating from college, she worked as a nurse in various hospitals and eventually moved to Los Angeles where she took a job with the U.S. Navy.

“I didn’t stay long because I succumbed to Cupid’s arrow.” she said, adding that she married after about a year with the Navy.

Both Merrill and Boyer said they were affected by World War II. Merrill relocated to Camp Roberts, where he spent all four years of the war. Boyer worked in Los Angeles and supported herself and her daughter after her husband was shipped overseas.

Interviewer Renee Cary, another resident of Vista del Monte, asked Merrill and Boyer about their secrets of longevity.

Boyer replied quickly: “I can’t name one thing. I eat a balanced diet, I get enough sleep, all those ordinary things. So, I can’t give any kind of recipe. Anyway, are you sure that you want to get much older?”

The crowd laughed. Some people shouted out “I do!” while others shrugged a little and chuckled.

As the laughter subsided, Merrill chimed in: “Well, I picked the right genes definitely. Lots of family time, good diet, too, like Madeline said. But another important thing I found, most of my years of employment were happy years. That to me is a big factor. A lot of people always say, ‘Oh, I’ve gotta get to work and do the same old thing.’ I never felt that way. I always looked forward to work. And my family. We always had family meals together, went on vacation together. Strong family.”

So for both Merrill and Boyer, it came down to the basics — and balance.

They also discussed the atmosphere of the East and Midwest versus that of the West Coast.

Boyer, who grew up in a strict and religious atmosphere, said that living in California was “liberating.” Merrill, however, stressed the progressiveness and openness of both coasts.

As the hour-long talk neared a close, the crowd was given the opportunity to ask questions. When asked for advice on how to live a long, healthy life, Merrill said: “Enter into new activities at Vista, give in to your inhibitions. Don’t hold back. Just enter into the spirit of things. Oh, yes, and have a sense of humor.”

The pair stressed the importance of good humor and being even-tempered.

“Don’t hold resentments.” Boyer said, with Merrill adding, “Don’t get too angry. Laugh things off when you can.”

Noozhawk intern Erin Stone can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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