CRESTVIEW — Thursday, many Okaloosa County residents, regardless of their position, gave thanks for life’s blessings, sharing a meal and fellowship with loved ones.


CRESTVIEW — Thursday, many Okaloosa County residents, regardless of their position, gave thanks for life’s blessings, sharing a meal and fellowship with loved ones.



But fewer had something unique to be grateful for: doing those things at 100 years old.



Nearly 72,000 centenarians were living in the United States in 2010, according to latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which projected growth to 601,000 by 2050.



Shoal Creek Rehabilitation Center in Crestview, among other facilities, may be witnessing that upswing, as it’s unusual to simultaneously have three patients there who are centenarians, or at least 100 years of age, Activities Director Amanda Owens said.



Clean living



So what’s the secret to a long life?



Willie Sanford might have the answer — at least for him.



"I have lived a clean life," he said, adding he avoided drinking alcohol and only tried tobacco once.



Sanford, nicknamed "Paw-Paw" by Shoal Creek staffers after he moved here from Baker, often passes through the hallways in his wheelchair, chatting with residents and staff.



"He is very sociable," she said. "He attends almost all of the activities we have here."



"I feel very good," Sanford, who is 95 percent independent, said.



When he isn't involved with church activities like listening to gospel music, he spends most of his time reading his Bible.



In fact, faith is a driving force in his life, he said.



"I know where I am going ... I've made it this far and I'm going to keep going 'til the Lord is ready to take me," Sanford said.  



Until that day, Sanford has support from his five children, including Melba Shue, his eldest daughter who regularly checks on him and brings clean clothes.



Marital bliss



Clifford Langdon, who has Alzheimer’s disease and hearing loss, saw his 77th wedding anniversary earlier this year.



His wife, Ruth, 99 — who can still stay by herself with son Bob and daughter Joan Hollmann as caregivers — credited mutual respect and understanding for a successful marriage.



“You really have to love and appreciate each other,” she said, adding that communication is key.



Clifford would often consult with her on business decisions when he was running a chain in grocery stores in Indiana, she said, adding, "We always talked things over. Even if we didn't agree, we always found a solution."



A healthy diet probably aided Ruth’s own longevity, she said, adding her meals always include fruits and vegetables.



Another tip is keeping your mind preoccupied, said Ruth, whose 100th birthday is next August.



“If you keep (your mind) active, you don’t have to worry about the unnecessary things,” she said, referring to her hobbies of knitting, crocheting and reading books, including her Bible.



Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or matthewb@crestviewbulletin.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.