Living to a Healthy 97 Years Old and Beyond

Meet Millie Rue Dunn, born August 11, 1920. She lives on her own in Mt. Dora Florida and still drives 1987 Mercedes Benz, which I might add, is still in mint condition.At a healthy 97 years old, she gives us her secrets on how to live as long as she has. She doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon!
How do you stay healthy at 97?
I keep moving. I need to use it or lose it so I try to stay active even though my breathing affects how much I can do. We’ve always lead a very active life and I don’t feel as good when I am inactive. I eat three balanced meals a day and not very large portions. My diet has not changed over the years. Too many people eat way too much food. I was also taught as a child to keep a positive attitude. And I keep doing the things I like to; be with friends, go to the coffee shop, do my grocery shopping, watch sports and movies on tv and read. Getting dressed up for dinner and church is something I like to do and still put my good jewelry on. I still care about the way I look! I still wear lipstick and put on my Estee Lauder makeup and I wear my pearls or gold chains on Wednesday and Fridays for dinner at the Bistro.
Have you ever had to watch what you ate?
No.  I have weighed the same weight all my life.  I weigh less now than I ever have and I don’t understand why. All my weight has settled in my stomach area. Most all foods agree with me so I haven’t had to avoid anything. I have never been on a diet and I think having had balanced meals my whole life has made the difference (without snacking). I only put on my plate what I will eat and no more. Too many people pile up their plates.
What do you think about food nowadays?
It’s not as good as it was when I was growing up or when I was bringing up our family. Food these days are served with way too much sauce, spices and are not as simple. I spent a lot of time on my grandmother’s farm. We used to pick vegetables and fruit right out of the garden. The fresh vegetables and fruit were also canned to use later. We used to milk the cows and drink unpasteurized milk. We used to kill the chickens and dip them in boiling water then pluck the feathers and then we would cook it for a meal. Everything was much more natural.   Today food is not natural. There are all kinds of additives which I don’t think are healthy.
What’s your advice to those who want to live as long and as healthy as you have?
Don’t eat all kinds of junk food, soda, drinks with heavy cream and sweets. I used to have a vanilla coke or a fountain coke in high school or college. Oh, I liked those a lot. It wasn’t like that kind of coca-cola they have today. I can’t stand those. I don’t put sugar in my coffee or iced tea. We eat three times a day with no snacks in between. I take 50mg of calcium, an aspirin and a multi vitamin daily. I’ve never broken a bone and my bone density are better than most.
Exercise! Keep moving. Sit down for three meals with family or friends and eat square balanced meals. Eat regularly without skipping meals and eat in moderation. Don’t sit in front of the tv or computer. Get outside and do things. Work hard, play hard, laugh hard, be a leader not a follower.
What are your favorite foods?
I don’t really have a favorite food…except Maine lobster. I will eat most anything and I eat different things more now at Waterman than when Grandpa was alive because he wouldn’t eat certain things. I will try most anything, but I eat small portions. And the most important thing is that I only put on my plate what I  will eat. I don’t like turnip greens.
What do you think about Organic food?
I don’t pay attention to labels. I have always bought fresh food. Everything was natural/organic and for the most part when I was growing up. I don’t really think about whether something is organic or not. It’s not something I think about. I just look for fresh.
Have you always exercised daily?
Exercising daily is very important. I started special exercises in the 1980’s and have continued doing them, to this day. I always did the exercises the doctors told me to. Grandpa and I would lay on a heating pad on the floor for ten minutes before we would start our leg and arms exercises. The doctor said we were the only two people who did their daily exercises. We had a suitcase (which is still sitting next to our bed) that had a coffee can that we’d wrap up in a towel that we’d use under our knees. It had weights in there. We’d take the suitcase wherever we traveled to in order to do our exercises. We’d lay on the hotel floor to get them done. I bought a shower curtain and cut it in half to lay it on the ground. Jim and I left weights at my sister’s house and we had weights at Chris’ house. I can’t do as many as I used to. We also bought two pedal machines. One we kept one in the car and one we kept at home. We were really conscientious.
When we grew up we played outside. We were never on the phone or in front of the tv. There was no such thing as the internet. We made our own fun playing outdoor games and we always had chores to do inside and outside before we could go out and  play. We were always busy playing games, climbing trees, riding the horses and pigs. Grandpa and I always exercised. We used to walk around the block in Westwood when he got home from work. I still walk even though I can’t go very far because of my poor breathing and sometimes it is too hot and humid. Grandpa and I used to go up to the lodge and walk the hallways back and forth to get our exercise because he had to stay out of the sun. I think our exercising is one reason along with diet that allowed us to live long lives.

Photographer: Merideth Morgan

Location: Mt. Dora, Florida

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