The Governor's Conference on Aging will occur this week on May 7 and May 9 in Glasgow and Great Falls respectively.

A few months ago, the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) asked for centenarians to respond to a survey, partly to gather information, and partly to honor them this week at the conferences.

More than 70 centenarians responded to the survey and revealed their secret to long life. DPHHS Public Information Officer Jon Ebelt said there were some consistent responses.

"Some of them had some real good actual public health messages," Ebelt said. "Many were real simple, but some things are the same as what we message today; which is don't smoke and don't drink."

Some of the responses were extremely practical.

"It's kind of funny," Ebelt said. "One lady, her name was Helen, said that no matter how she was feeling on a particular day she would just tell herself to 'get out of that darn bed.'"

The Conference on Aging will tackle issues such as Alzheimers and healthcare. Montana has one of the fastest growing elderly populations in the United States with nearly 13 thousand people joining the ranks of those 65 and older every year.

While the 65 and older population is the fastest growing segment of Montana society, centenarians are the fastest growing group of those 65 and older.

Below are some of the responses to the centenarian survey as compiled by Montana DPPHS.

  • Bernice Clara Mybakken Hermann, age 100 of Glasgow said the secret to longevity “is I guess the good Lord wanted me to live this long. It isn’t anything I have done.”
  • Bertha Renfro, age 101 of Columbia Falls, said her secret to longevity was that “she never smoked and never drank. And she likes rock n' roll and Elvis Presley.”
  • Leonette Rudel Lodmell Jaumotte, age 100 of Choteau said her secret to longevity is the “simple life, her faith, her strength of character and her determination. She said the most amazing event she witnessed in her life was the landing on, and man walking on the moon and her favorite quote is ‘let not your heart be troubled.’”
  • Helen Self, age 103 of Missoula, said her secret to longevity is that “she always tells herself no matter how she is feeling, Helen, get out of that darn bed!”
  • Evelyn Sanders, age 101 years old of Conrad, said the secret to her longevity is “good clean living and taking good care of herself.” She also said there is also longevity in her family. Her father lived to be 106; her brother is 102; and her sister lived to be almost 100. Family has always meant a lot to Evelyn and she is proud of that fact that she was married for over 70 years.
  • Veronica Gustin, age 105 of Kalispell, was raised in Geraldine where the boys out-numbered the girls. She said she had to “learn how to play games better than the boys so she could play.” She was an avid golfer with more than 40 trophies to prove it along with being inducted into the Montana State Women’s Golf Association Hall of Fame in 1992.
  • Ernie Stomsvik, age 103 of Cut Bank, said the secret to longevity is “I forget about yesterday and don’t worry about tomorrow.” His most amazing event was shooting an 80 on his 80th birthday at the Cut Bank Golf Course. Cold weather is in his blood and he loves lutefisk and lefsa due to his Norwegian background. He loves flowers and loves to grow them, especially red roses which are his favorite.