A couple who married in 1939 claimed the title of oldest living couple in the world according to Guinness World Records. Between them they have lived 211 years on Earth, and their secret to health and longevity is refreshingly simple: moderation and cordiality.
John Henderson, 106, and his wife, Charlotte, 105, live in Austin, Texas, where the lovebirds met for the first time in class at the University of Texas in 1934. Charlotte was studying to become a teacher; John worked as a guard for the football team.
John and Charlotte courted for five years before tying the knot in 1939 during the Great Depression. These were radically different times; according to CNN, the newlyweds spent just $7 on the hotel room for their honeymoon.
The Hendersons received their Guinness World Record certificate in the first week of November 2019. Within a few short weeks, the couple anticipates yet another milestone; on Dec. 15, the Hendersons will celebrate 80 years of marriage.
When John and Charlotte’s world record for being the oldest living married couple was announced, comments from well-wishers flooded in.
“John almost looks the same. His early pictures show that little almost-hidden forever smile on his face and it seems to always be there,” a family friend contributed. “That’s his secret. There’s a smile. He just keeps looking happy and it’s worked for 106 years. She’s beautiful. Congratulations to this wonderful couple.”
Both husband and wife still boast good health despite their advanced ages. They are well taken care of; in 2009, both John and Charlotte moved into Longhorn Village senior living community, a group associated with University of Texas alumni, housing a community of more than 360 seniors.
John exercises every single day, and besides being a record holder for their longevous marriage, John is also the oldest living former University of Texas football player. The 106-year-old has maintained a tradition of attending at least one Longhorn football game every year since 1935.
Genetics and environmental factors can certainly play a role in determining why some people live to reach 100 or older while others don’t. According to the United States Census Bureau, the centenarian faction is growing. Between 1980 and 2015, the size of the centenarian community in the United States rose from 32,194 to 76,974.
Speaking to USA Today as a sprightly 104-year-old back in 2017, John explained, “We never overdo anything. Eat well. Sleep well. Don’t overdrink. Don’t overeat, and exercise regularly.”
Charlotte believed that being married, in and of itself, may have contributed to the couple enjoying good health at 100-plus years of age. “We had such a good time when John retired. We traveled a lot,” Charlotte said. “We just stay busy all the time, and I’m sure that helps.”
Their shared experience might have been more beneficial for her husband, according to some science. A 2015 Belgian study into the effects of ageing, focused upon centenarians born between 1893 and 1903, found that “[i]n very old age, living with a spouse is beneficial for men but not for women, for whom living alone is more advantageous than living with a spouse.”
As health inevitably declines, the study explained, “[c]aregiving could have negative consequences for the health and economic condition of the spouse who is the primary caregiver, especially for older women.”
However, the Hendersons are breaking the mold; their near 80 years of marriage and mutual support are a source of inspiration to their family, friends, and even future generations.
When asked by CNN ahead of the couple’s 80th wedding anniversary for further insight into achieving health, longevity, and a happy marriage, John replied in brief, “Live life in moderation and be cordial to your spouse!”