10 Betty White Secrets to a Long Life

Betty White
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Most people have never lived in a world without Betty White. The Emmy-winning actress, perhaps best known for her roles in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls,” died on Dec. 31, 2021, at age 99. Although White didn’t quite make it to age 100, her acting career spanned seven decades, making her a mainstay of American entertainment and pop culture. She even set the Guinness World Record back in 2014 for the longest TV career for a female entertainer.

White stayed in the spotlight long past the age when many people retire to Florida, as her character did in “The Golden Girls.” She was 88 when she began playing Elka Ostrovsky on the TV Land sitcom “Hot in Cleveland” in 2010. That same year, she became the oldest person ever to host NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”. (White was nearly 50 years older than musical guest Jay-Z.)

White isn’t forgotten. Her lengthy career, devotion to animal causes, and winning personality ensure that. And there are many lessons to be learned from her long and active life. Here are life tips gleaned from the rich example set by Betty White.

1. Embrace your age

Betty White with her wax statue at Madame Tussauds Hollywood
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White told AARP that she’s never lied about her age, and she’s never let growing older bother her. “I never thought about age much,” she said. “I learned that at my mother’s knee. Age was not important.”

2. Love your work

Betty White with the other Golden Girls
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If White had retired in 1987, the year she turned 65, she’d have left “The Golden Girls” years before the show ended. Plus, she’d never have made “Hot in Cleveland,” hosted “Saturday Night Live” or appeared in dozens of other TV shows and movies. “I just love to work, so I’ll keep working until they stop asking,” she told Parade.

3. Keep your sense of humor

Betty White and Lorax
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Laugh your way to a long life. White said in an interview with People magazine that her sense of humor helped keep her going strong. “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” she said. “You can lie to others — not that I would — but you cannot lie to yourself.”

4. Always look on the bright side

Betty White with Wendie Malick and Jane Leeves
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Each life has its share of positives and negatives, and White told Parade Magazine in a 2018 interview that her focus was on the good. “Enjoy life,” she said. “Accentuate the positive, not the negative. It sounds so trite, but a lot of people will pick out something to complain about, rather than say, ‘Hey, that was great!’ It’s not hard to find great stuff if you look.”

5. Don’t give up

Betty White's Hollywood Walk of Fame star
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White began acting in high school, but in the 1940s, movie studios turned down the twentysomething, calling her “unphotogenic.” That may seem delusional to fans who’ve seen White’s smiling and charming face on camera, but she didn’t let it stop her even then. “You just keep plugging away,” White said. “You don’t give up.”

6. Keep busy

Betty White and Carol Channing
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White never retired to a rocking chair. In 2020, she told journalist Katie Couric that staying lively was key to her long life. “First of all, keep busy and don’t focus everything on you,” she said. “That wears out pretty fast. It’s not hard to find things you’re interested in, but enjoy them and indulge them. And I think that keeps you on your toes.”

7. Enjoy your food and drink

Close up of hotdog with mustard.
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Certainly, eating healthy is important for longevity. But White never let her diet control her. She bluntly told Parade that she loved vodka and hot dogs, “probably in that order.” (A recent study claimed that hot dogs actually reduced one’s lifespan — but it sure doesn’t seem to have affected White’s longevity.) White also joked that she “tried to avoid (eating) anything green.”

8. Share your life with animals

Betty White with a dog
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White was well-known for her devotion to animals and the work she did with organizations that help them — so much so that after she died, many fans donated to animal shelters to honor her 100th birthday on Jan. 17, 2022. White was reported by the Chicago Sun-Times as saying there wasn’t any animal she didn’t like, and that included snakes. And a number of studies have shown that pet owners enjoy many health benefits thanks to sharing their lives with animals.

9. Appreciate nature

Redwood forest of Muir Woods National Monument, California
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The U.S. Forest Service named White an honorary forest ranger in 2010. But a love of nature has always been a part of her life. In her acceptance speech for the honor, White said her first memories were of “riding in front of my dad on his horse as we packed into the high Sierras” and remembering how she waited all year long for the family’s next wilderness trip.

10. Don’t regret your choices

Betty White on a billboard in Times Square
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White’s life had its ups and downs, but she didn’t look back in bitterness. “I have no regrets at all,” she told Guinness World Records in 2013. “None. I consider myself to be the luckiest old broad on two feet.”

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