You know how Hollywood has all of those superhero movies lined up from now until the end of time? Well, Agnes Fenton is the kind of hero I want to see a movie about. When she turned 110 last week, she said of the milestone, “The birthday is just another day.” And the woman doesn’t sugarcoat age, telling a reporter visiting recently that she felt “lousy.” But, what might make Mrs. Fenton the most distinct — besides the fact that just 1 in every 10 million people in the world is a supercentenarian — is that she partially attributes her longevity to three Miller High Lifes a day. And a shot of Johnnie Walker Blue.
Fenton can’t stomach the stuff anymore, as she hasn’t been eating much lately. (She did say, however, that her caregivers “better” let her have some Johnnie on her birthday.) But, after she had a benign tumor removed years ago, her doctor discharged her with the words, “Agnes, you must drink three Miller High Lifes a day.” And she did.
There’s a lot to pick apart here. Who is this doctor? And can he be my doctor? For years, studies have said that moderate alcohol intake is healthier than none at all. The old attitude was that red wine was best and despite being “The Champagne of Beers,” the grad-school-budget High Life was anything but. Now, though, many scientists and doctors say that any alcohol will do — and Miller High Life, at an amiable 4.6 percent per volume, technically qualifies.
In 2014, 60 Minutes aired a segment, “Living to 90 and Beyond,” which focused on a 14,000-person National Institutes of Health study that followed elderly people who lived longer than others — and why that could have been. Here, Lesley Stahl asks Dr. Claudia Kawas, the neurologist and professor leading the study, the Great Booze Question (around 10:48):
Boom! Cheers everyone: Drinkers do live longer. (But don’t overindulge: just two or three drinks per day is all you need.) Anecdotally, my longest living grandparent drank around three Perfect Manhattans a day — don’t give Grammy a regular Manhattan or she will get rowdy — to make it to 84. Her surviving next-door neighbors in Ohio straight up crush High Life and High Life Light (it’s a thing), showing no signs of slowing down well into their 80s. The debate over how much we should consume for maximum longevity is a robust one, but let me posit my own theory on what someone who puts down a six pack every couple of days well past her 100th birthday might have discerned: Things that make you happy, relieve stress, bring you joy, and make your life more fun to live may delay the aging that fight-or-flight hormonal responses trigger. Twisting off three bottle caps a day for decades is a lot of chill to get you through the years.
So, happy birthday to Agnes Fenton: I am still flabbergasted by the low-high spectrum of drinking the carbonated swill of High Life with the gracefully-noted, silky smoothness of Johnnie Blue, but how dare I question anything about this wonderful woman. Perhaps, that’s even a key to her success. In fact, from now on you’ll be able to find me on my patio with an Olde English 40 and a snifter of Armagnac Castarde Vintage 1979.
Oh, and one final insight as to why she might’ve lasted this long: She didn’t have any kids.