104-Year-Old Woman's Secret to Longevity: ‘Keep Your Mind Busy'

Corsicana woman still dances and plays piano

A 104-year-old woman in Corsicana who still dances and plays the piano says her secret to good health is to keep her mind active.

Anna Bell Swanner was born in Cone, Texas, on Feb. 28, 1915. Cone is west of Lubbock.

Woodrow Wilson was president back then.

The Model T was just a few years old.

"And the doctor who delivered me was Dr. Snow,” Swanner said. “And before he got through, momma had eight babies -- not (all) at that time. Two years apart for 16 years.”

She had three kids herself.

Her longtime husband Marvin died at the age of 79 in 1993.

She grew up on a farm picking cotton in a conservative religious family.

"Never went to a dance, smoked, curse, or any of the things,” Swanner said. “Somebody asked me what did I do. Well, we lived in the country and there was plenty to do."

They had electricity but few appliances.

"We were the appliance," she said laughing. "When the stoves began coming along, I remember getting a gas stove. And my sister wrote me and said, 'Be careful, they can blow up.'"

Her family got a radio in 1923.

“And it had that big horn on it,” she said.

Long before the internet or cell phones, there was the party line. Neighbors, sharing the same phone.

"Our number was number three and yours would be four, like that,” she explained. “If three rang, then that meant I could answer the phone. But if you was wanting to gossip, you'd listen to four or five.”

A few years ago, she moved into a nursing home in Corsicana to be closer to family.

Asked what her secret to longevity is, she said it was in her mind.

“Keep your mind busy,” she said. “I found out that mind over matter matters."

Swanner has never smoked or drank.

Except once when she tried champagne at her son’s wedding.

"I thought, ‘They're all acting like that tastes pretty good. I just wonder,’” she said. “So I eased over there and got one, took a little sip. And goodness gracious, I found a place to hide it and I stuck it behind something. That was the last of my champagne."

She said she rarely got in trouble – even as a little girl – and had a spotless driving record.

She did have one close call when she got pulled over for speeding one early morning.

"So I pulled over, rolled the glass down,” she remembered. “He walked up there. I said, 'Can I help you?' He looked at me kind of funny and said, 'No ma’am. Did you see that sign back there?' I said, 'Well, there wasn't anyone out. Everyone is still sleeping. Would you like to have a cookie? I just bought these up at that dollar store.’”

The officer declined the offer, she said.

He released her with a warning.

"Yeah, he said, 'Just look out for the signs next time,’” she said. “That's the closest I ever came to going to jail."

That wasn’t long before she gave up driving – at the age of 94.

She keeps active by doing crochet and still plays the piano too.

"Reckon how long I"ll make it? 105?” she said. “That's what I'm planning on."

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