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The Secret to a Long Life

By Regan Johnson

In the nursing home community of Bradford Ecumenical Home, one resident stands as a testament to over a century’s worth of memories, experiences, and resilience. Paul Monjar is a remarkable soul who, at the age of 106, inspires those around him with his infectious spirit and treasure of life lessons. I had the privilege to spend an afternoon with Paul. After meeting him, I asked him, where we should begin. He responded with a smile, “There’s so many things! Do you have 100 years?”


I asked Paul how the times have changed over 100 years. “Oh, has it ever changed,” he said. Born in 1917, Paul’s eyes have witnessed the world transform through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the rise and fall of empires and the advancement of technology.


Paul’s charming wit and lively personality capture the hearts of everyone he meets. When I inquired about the source of his happiness, his immediate response was, “You make me happy.” Paul delights in various activities, particularly liking dark chocolate kisses, dancing, engaging in spirited games of Bingo, staying active through workouts, passionately following baseball - especially the Pittsburgh Pirates - cheering for the Buffalo Bills and reminiscing on his days of golf. I inquired about his hopes for the future, and he expressed a single desire: to witness the Buffalo Bills clinch a Super Bowl victory, emphasizing this while sporting his Buffalo Bills hat. Paul’s diverse interests and unwavering enthusiasm reflect a life rich in joy and appreciation for simple pleasures.


I asked Paul if he had any advice to offer me as a 21-year-old college student. “21?,” he said. He told me that if he could go back to any age, it would be 21. He offered me a straightforward piece of advice: “Stay out of the sun”. This advice immediately reminded me of the “Wear Sunscreen” speech by Mary Schmich, narrated by Baz Luhrmann. Originally intended for graduation ceremonies, I related it to my own life as I graduate in the spring. The speech offers timeless advice, emphasizing the importance of sunscreen as a metaphor for facing life’s challenges with resilience, self-care and a sense of perspective.


Paul also imparted a significant lesson derived from his 106 years of life: “The world goes around and around.” This wisdom holds particular relevance for me, especially as I navigate the transitional phase into the workforce at the age of 21. Anticipating challenges ahead, I am mindful that, regardless of the circumstance, the world will still go around and around.


Now, for the moment everyone has been waiting for. I asked Paul what the secret to a long life is to which he responded, “Blue Gatorade”. In that case, everyone should grab some Blue Gatorade!


Although Paul has lived a long life, my conversation with him offered me a wake-up call to spend time and learn from people while you can. Paul is a testament to the powerful human spirit, proving that age is merely a number. The true measure of a life well-lived lies in the love shared, lessons learned, and special memories created. Paul continues to teach the invaluable lesson that each day is a gift, a chance to make new memories and embrace the beauty of a life well-lived, no matter the age.

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