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103-year-old runner shares his tips for living a long life: 'You have to be an optimist'

E. Gerald Meyer didn't take up running until middle age. It became a daily ritual.
E. Gerald Meyer
E. Gerald Meyer, seen here in 2019, has been a regular at the National Senior Games.Courtesy National Senior Games Association
/ Source: TODAY

At 103, E. Gerald Meyer still misses riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle — his favorite mode of transportation until his 90s.

But he’s still on the go without the bike. Meyer has been an avid runner since he took up jogging in his 50s, competing in road races at the National Senior Games for decades.

He was all set to run in the 50-meter race at the games in Pittsburgh this week, but had to pull out at the last minute when his doctor advised him not to travel.

Courtesy E. Gerald Meyer
Meyer says running both invigorates and relaxes him. Courtesy National Senior Games Association

Meyer, who lives independently in Laramie, Wyoming, with his partner — “a young lady who is 20 years younger than I am,” he says — won’t be sitting still. He walks every day and believes exercise is important for the body and mind.

“With me, it’s not a chore; it’s something that I get it in the habit of doing. You just do it,” Meyer, a retired professor of chemistry and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Wyoming, tells

Many younger people find running takes a toll on their knees, but Meyer says he’s been lucky to avoid those problems.

“I have not had any trouble with my hips and joints. … I really have been fortunate in that everything has held together. Nothing’s falling off,” he notes.

Born in November 1919, Meyer says he has never had any major health problems like cancer or heart disease. He wears glasses and hearing aids, but otherwise reports no big health issues. His medical care consists of undergoing checkups twice a year.

Here’s what Meyer attributes to his healthy longevity:

You’re never too old to exercise

Meyer played football and other sports when he was younger, but he didn’t take up running until middle age. He made an effort to run every day, even during Wyoming’s tough winters, making it a part of his routine. His dog helped nudge him out of bed every morning.

Exercise should be a habit, Meyer says.

“It invigorates you, it really does. It also relaxes you,” he explains.

“I thought about (work) all the time, but then I’d run and say, ‘This is a nice day.’… That sort of stuff disappears when you’re out running or walking. It has the double benefit of getting you relaxed and of keeping the body from falling apart.”

He doesn’t run that much anymore, but walks daily.

Take good care of yourself

Besides having good genes — Meyer’s mother lived to be 90 — he says it’s important to take care of the body. He doesn’t smoke, drinks alcohol only once a week and eats a healthy diet, though he "unfortunately" likes sweets, especially cookies, he says.

But Meyer also points out another big part of longevity is “just plain luck.”

Find passion in life

Meyer loved exploring Wyoming on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

“I really rode around,” he says. “On weekends, I could ride out and take a lunch. It was just a lot of fun.”

He rode the motorbike until age 91 and stopped only because he felt his balance and vision weren’t as good as they used to be.

Finding passion in his personal life has been important, too.

Meyer met his partner, Barbara Hofmann, after their spouses passed away. They share a house and live "just like any other couple," he says.

Courtesy E. Gerald Meyer
Meyer and his partner, Barbara Hofmann, celebrate his 100th birthday in 2019.Courtesy E. Gerald Meyer

Think positive

When asked if he’s an optimist or pessimist, a well-known factor in longevity, Meyer is matter of fact: “You don’t need to ask that question, do you? I’m an optimist, of course. I’ve always been. You have to be.”