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Higher powers: Afterlife insurance

secrets to long life

A belief in a higher power is a common trait among centenarians, says Harris. You can call it afterlife insurance.

"I think spirituality is important in terms of maintaining an active interest, having a higher purpose in life," he says.

Spirituality is hard to measure scientifically. For some it may mean going to church every week. For others it's living by certain principles or codes of ethics. It doesn't have to be tied in with a belief in God. For many, it is a cure for stress and anxiety, which can have damaging effects on your mind and body.

"The research overwhelmingly shows that, regardless of your specific beliefs, having spiritual beliefs that are positive absolutely predicts longevity," says Lombardo.

Spirituality gives the elderly a sense of purpose, says Kathy Johnson, a psychologist who serves as CEO of Home Care Assistance, a California-based company that provides care to seniors. "It is a positive attitude. It is optimism. It is calmness."

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