A local resident of Meridian, Mississippi celebrated another huge milestone in her life recently. Family and close friends surrounded Julia Mae Hunter-Rice as she turned 107 years old on June 2.
Born in 1916, Ms. Rice danced and smiled as her loved ones sang happy birthday to her. Dorothy Dickson, her daughter, shared with WTOK-TV that, “Her secret is smiling and being fair. She always stood for that which is right, and so it is at 107, she’s still the captain of the ship.”
The centenarian’s other daughter, Anabelle, said a life motto that Ms. Rice has lived by is the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (NIV).
Her secret is smiling and being fair. She always stood for that which is right, and so it is at 107, she’s still the captain of the ship. —Dorothy Dickson, daughter of Julia Mae Hunter-Rice
Last year, a woman from Maryland credited her faith in God as the secret of her long life as she celebrated her 100th birthday. Mrs. Martha Bailey, born in 1922 and grew up in Virginia, has a daughter, five grandchildren and dozens more great-grandchildren.
At 100, Mrs. Bailey serves as the pillar of her family and she’s ready to give advice based from the Bible. Her daughter thinks that her mother’s viceless life—she never consumed alcohol nor smoked, is the reason she reached a major achievement in life.
But, Mrs. Bailey revealed that her secret to long life is God.
“The secret is the grace of God living in me and me trying to live the best life that I could,” she said. “The secret is loving the Lord.”
Science supports connection of religion to longevity
Living by faith is a factor for a long life. A 2018 study showed that people with religious beliefs live approximately four years longer than those who don’t.
Scientists at Ohio State University analyzed over 1,500 newspaper obituaries, first from Ohio, then from across the U.S., and found that those with documented religious affiliation lived an average of 9.45 years longer than those who did not. The research concluded that there are benefits from regularly attending church service that are difficult to measure.
Churchgoers tend to engage in positive behaviors, including high social interaction and lower rates of alcohol and drug abuse. —Bill Fiala, Ph.D., Azusa Pacific University
“There’s still a lot of the benefit of religious affiliation that this can’t explain,” said Laura Wallace, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in psychology at Ohio State University.
Experts from Azusa Pacific University in California welcomed the results of the survey.
“Churchgoers tend to engage in positive behaviors, including high social interaction and lower rates of alcohol and drug abuse,” explained Bill Fiala, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and professor in APU’s Department of Higher Education. “In addition, religious support and coping are both related to positive outcomes in mental health.”
In a scholarly article published in 2002, Fiala explored the positive effects of religious support to people. His study found that “religious support can provide unique resources for religious persons, above and beyond those furnished by social support.”
“We’re not compartmental beings. If something impacts my soul, chances are it also impacts my body,” Fiala said. “With studies like this, we’re always looking at behavior because it’s tangible. We can measure how often somebody goes to church because that’s easier to quantify, but how do you quantify your soul?”
Another study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in 2016 supported the idea that a religious life has a positive effect on a person’s mortality. The study suggested that regularly attending religious services can increase lifespan in women. Experts found that those middle-aged women in the U.S. who attend a religious service at least once a week had a 33% lower risk of death than those who never went.
Meantime, Rev. Kevin W. Mannoia, Ph.D., graduate and faculty chaplain at APU, stressed the importance of holistic health.
“Getting at the issue, I think it’s not merely activities that cause longevity of life. Activities are the outcome of healthy spirituality in relationship to God,” he said. “So what causes those outcomes? It is the deep peace, or the shalom, of God. Those practices-—prayer, volunteer work, meditation, church attendance—are evidence of a healthy, integrated, and balanced life. That’s the way God intended for us to live.”