Changing Planet

Bernando LaPallo and the Recipe for a Long Life

Bernando Lapallo plans to celebrate his 113th birthday this year. The supercentenarian resident of Arizona lives to inspire people everywhere that they too can grow old, even very old, if only they live clean and healthy lives.

“Bernando continues to shop for himself, cook, bathe, shave without any assistance from anyone to help him in and out of the shower,” says Ekayani Erika Chamberlin, his assistant and granddaughter. “He walks a mile and a half every day to the park. He has all his hair and his teeth, but he has no wrinkles.”

Chamberlin attributes the longevity and robust health of her grandfather to her Brazilian-born great grandfather, a doctor and herbalist who taught his son very clearly what and how to eat and what bad habits to stay away from. “More than good genes my grandfather was given a set of rock solid principles in terms of a daily regimen. That is the real key I hope people will understand. There is just no way you can be reckless and expect to be in excellent health,” Chamberlin says.

Working through his granddaughter, Bernando LaPallo gave News Watch an interview about his recipe for a long and healthy life. We did not directly address some media controversy about his “real” age, in which by some accounts he is is 102 and not 112. The family stands by LaPallo’s birth date of 1901, citing an entry in the family bible and official documentary evidence. That Bernando LaPallo is well into his second century is not in dispute.

Not many people make it to 100, let alone 112. How much of this is in your genes? Is there longevity in your family?

Yes there is longevity in my family. My grandmother lived to be 107, my mother 105 and my daddy was 99 when he passed. On my mother’s side no one died under the age of 89 years, as far as I know.  So you have to take care of your genes. It’s like owning a Rolls Royce and leaving it in the garage and not taking care of it. Fortunately, I had a daddy who taught me how to take care of my body. My longevity is due to my obedience and moderation. I have based my life on following what my father told me.

Everyone will want to know the secrets of living a long life, while remaining healthy and alert. What’s your advice about eating, exercise, stress, and just generally looking after yourself?

I eat plenty of fresh fruit and green vegetables, and I drink plenty of water. Water is very important. Exercise and sleep. Sleep is very important. Unless I am making a speech someplace, I’m generally in bed by 9:30. I get up at 3:30 or 4 in the morning, go for my walk, take my shower, rub my body down with olive oil, make my breakfast. Stress is a killer, my daddy told me that. It’s important to take time to relax and exercise your brain, such as by doing crossword puzzles. Everything I am telling you my daddy told me to do and I have followed his instructions for over a century.

Beyond_100.225x225-75Bernando LaPallo gives lectures and has published several books about living a healthy life. Some of his video lectures can be found on his Facebook page, while his latest book, Beyond 100: How to Live Well Into Your Second Century, can be downloaded from iTunes.

Tell us a little about your career. What kind of jobs did you have? Did you live a particularly active physical life?

I got my start in about 1924 working on the American Export Line. I worked the coastline from Boston to Miami and back. That was the first time I had a taste of working on the ocean liners. Then I advanced, going to Panama. That was the West Indian Line. The first stop was Cuba, and then we would go on to Puerto Rico and Panama, and then finally on to Buenos Aires, the end of the line. It was a 51-day cruise, if I remember right.

I was a chef all over the country. I worked at MacGuiness restaurant  in Sheepshead Bay on Sutphin Boulevard near the courthouse in Jamaica, Queens. I worked in Wildwood — up and down the Jersey coast. Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Cape May — all up and down the Atlantic Coast. In Asbury Park I worked at the Asbury Carlton, the Ansonia Hotel.

I worked in the winter season in Florida for the Hage brothers. They were a Swedish family and had cafeteria-style restaurants in Saint Petersburg and West Palm Beach. I used to take the Orange Blossom Special from Pennsylvania Station in New York to the station in Saint Petersburg located on Second Avenue right in the heart of the colored section of town. Right across the street was Webb’s drugstore, a huge drugstore. That was in the 30s.

Later I went to the Swedish Institute of Massage and opened up my own practice in New York City. I also studied podiatry. Now I still work, by giving speeches to people about how I stay healthy. I’ve lived a long time. I’ve worked a long time.

It’s too valuable an opportunity to pass, so I want to ask you about your earliest memories of the world, the great political events and personalities of your lifetime, the new technologies that emerged across more than a century of a single memory. What are some of the highlights of your experiences?

Martin Luther King, Jr. was the turning point for me. In Alabama the governor had given orders to the soldiers to shoot anyone colored who tried to vote. I saw this on television with my wife Georgette. As the people were walking by, the soldiers wouldn’t shoot. MLK was standing right there telling them to go in and vote. Now that’s faith. All his actions I was interested in.

It’s difficult for me to remember all the details. There was so much racial stuff going on at the time. MLK shook up the whole country. He shook up half the world.

Another person I enjoyed meeting was the film star Gloria Swanson. She used to call me Champ on account of the fact that I was such a sharp dresser.  I was introduced to her by a mutual friend, Louis Armstrong, when I was studying the culinary arts in Paris. In fact, she was the one who suggested I start wear a cologne called Zinzannie. Everybody loved it. It was powerful without being too strong. I wish I could get more of it but they stopped making it. If I’d known they’d stop making it I would have bought cases of it. Anyway,  I have met so many people in my lifetime and I have outlived them all because they didn’t take care of their health and I did.

It’s been said that something’s gained and something’s lost in living every day. When you look back, what have we lost as a culture and civilization, and what have we gained?

We have gained recognition as human beings. Before Martin Luther King we really didn’t have that. If I wanted to I could write a whole book on black history. As I was born in Brazil I was taught that there was only one race:  human. So when I came to this country and saw how people were being treated because of the color of their skin I became curious. The kids today, they don’t know their history and this is a loss.

Looking at it from your own point of view, what is the greatest blessing and the biggest challenge of growing old?

I’ve had a beautiful life. I’ve traveled all over the world from the age of 23 up until I was about 57 years old. I can’t even count the amount of countries I have set foot in. My brain was alert and it’s still alert. I can’t remember everything but still I am here with you today at the age of 112 able to explain these things as far as humanly possible. My greatest blessing was my father. He’s the reason why I am here today. I obeyed his orders in terms of living for over one hundred years. You see you are only alive a moment compared to the time you’re dead. Think about it. Why not cherish the time you are here?  Remember if you don’t have your health you don’t have anything.

I have a vivid memory when I was a very young boy of my grandfather sitting at the feet of his mother, my great-grandmother, an elderly man sitting on the ground as if he was a little boy. What I remembered most was how much that showed that he respected and loved her. He certainly took care of her. Now I read and hear about the neglect and financial abuse of the elderly in the United States, sometimes by their own adult children. Have you observed society’s attitudes toward elders changed over your lifetime?

Oh yes. No question about that. One great thing my father told me is to treat people the way you want to be treated. I have done that and today I am being blessed with all this publicity. I love God and I know He loves me. If you stay healthy you won’t have to become a victim.Your health is very important. When I go and make speeches at old age homes I feel sorry for the people there. Their children don’t take time to visit them and they make excuses for them: “Oh they are busy. They have their lives.”  I don’t understand how you cannot take the time to visit your mother or father. I feel very grateful that my family cares for me and let’s me know it. So many people don’t have that.

Tell us about your new book. What wisdom are you imparting and what is your overall message?

My first book was about me and my daddy, my travels and my top ten foods. The second book is out because people ask me about recipes, but they forget that I am mostly a vegetarian. I eat green vegetables, fruits and so on. So in this book I talk about different fruits and vegetables I like, their origin and their benefits. It doesn’t include every fruit and vegetable. That would take too long!

If you could, would you like to keep on living indefinitely? Do you feel you still have places to go, things to do and see?

As long as I have my right mind and don’t have to be in a wheelchair and can do things on my own, yes. If I have to be pushed around in a wheelchair as a way of life, no I don’t want it. We are told that we are made in the image of God so I have taken care of that image: Me. I’d like to show the younger generation how to take care of their body. But if God wants me to come home now, I am ready. I’ve tried to help people as much as I can.

We are all living older. Many if not most of the children of today will apparently live to at least 100. What is your overall message to a nation that is getting older?

Keep your colon clean and your liver clean, take care of your eyes and take care of your feet. If you do that you’ll stay healthy. I have done that and continue to do that and that is why I am here today. How many people do you know that are my age that are able to cook for themselves, bathe themselves, take a walk, shave and have the presence of mind to talk to you today as I am doing? You know the devil is busy. He’s out there working all the time. When I was a young man they were selling reefers, three for a quarter. This man told me to try it.  “It’ll make you feel good.” I said “I feel good already.”  He said “Aw man, you’re such a square.” But I am alive in good health and he is dead.  So take care of your health, practice moderation and you’ll live a long and healthy life.

Bernando LaPallo’s official biography: He was born in Brazil on August 17, 1901 to American-born Mattie Carr and Brazilian-born Bernando LaPallo, Sr. The family moved to the United States in 1906 where Bernando raised by his father, a practicing doctor and herbalist in Philadelphia. He raised his own family in Harlem in New York City, later moving to Queens, where he resided with his wife Georgette. His primary interest was in food and he went on to study the culinary arts at the Sorbonne in Paris, graduating in 1928. After years of working as a chef on steam liners and at hotel resorts he retired from the culinary arts to pursue an interest in the healing arts. He studied massage at The Swedish Institute in New York City, and then went on to NYU to study and become licensed as a reflexologist and podiatrist. He completed that course of study at the age of 73. He had a successful private massage practice in New York City for more than 20 years, treating people from all walks of life. After living in New York for 90 years (and never being sick a day in his life there), he moved to North Carolina briefly before settling down in Arizona where he is a popular speaker on the secrets of his youthful vitality and health.  

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

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Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Rob Greaves

    Lovely story!

  • nolda lagos

    necesito esta pagina en Español ..gracias..

  • Marco Wikkerink

    Even though this article says there is official documentation for this man’s age, I’d still like to see it before accepting this man’s age as ‘true’. I, too, could look like 112 with the right amount of make-up and clothes. What I am trying to say is: where is this so-called proof that the family is talking about? Has any journalist/researcher within the National Geographic team tried to obtain the family’s evidence? You see, so far I have yet to encounter any man aged 110+ who can do the things Mr. Lapallo does with that much ease. If he is the age he claims, then I will take a deep bow, but my suspicions have yet to be taken away. I am sure his family is willing to cooperate to verify his age – which is provide proof by means of a birth record, for instance, or a Census match – if he really is the age claimed.

    I have to say that I had expected a more scientific and verifiable research from a renowned journal like the National Geographic before posting this article with a mere mention of “there is media controversy”. How much of a scientific article can this still be if even a writer himself casts doubts – or at least hints at it – over a man’s age?

  • lorri

    love the story. and whether Bernando is 102 or 112 ,he has lived a long and accomplished life ! Bravo.

  • JS Parks

    Marco Wikkerink is quite right. For all we know he could be a mere 100 year old poser… Someone should really get a signed statement from the birth attending physician. Or at least one of his former school teachers.

  • moya

    We love your book Bernardo and also want to tell you that you have ancestors in Donegal Ireland. Carr is a common surname here and there is even a town called Kilcar- you can find on the map -called after St Carrta of Donegal. Thank you and looking foreward to your new book



  • Isolda

    I believe this man is a centenerian.There is a lot of people in rest homes his age, the reason he is is so independent is because his lifestyle this man has taking care of body, mind and soul. My point is that is not imposible for people to live long lives this days due to genetics and medicine. But the difference lies in the quality of life you can only get that thru lifestyle . Iam in my early fifties and iam plant based vegan. People think Iam in my early forties or late thirties. Genetically speaking there is no longevety in my family but whatever years i have on this planet I want them to be like Mr.Lapallo! Salud Mr. Lapallo!! andmay God continue to bless you!!!

  • Phyllis Berg

    What an incredible inspiration this man is – he is the epitome of health in mind , body and
    Just imagine , he was a massage therapist from age 73 – 93 … remarkable !

  • james Beck

    Everything about Mr. Bernando LaPallo speaks of truth, honor, integrity and love. More so than any politician or journalist out there today. Thank you Mr. Bernando LaPallo. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Lord of hosts be with you always.

  • Tim

    I am a nurse in a large emergency room. I took care of a man once that was 112 and was there because he cut his hand opening a can of tomatoes. He was on no medications and had no history of medical problems. We gave him stitches and went on his way. H e seemed completely lucid and in good health. I was amazed. I asked him what it was like to be 112, he said he hated it because everyone he had ever known had died. He thought God didn’t like him.

  • Tim Boehm

    A breath of fresh air in comparison to most oldies – interviewed by the media – who don’t really know why they reached supercentenarian status. Their faculties impaired, they give any answer. At the end of the day, when your number is up – its up!

  • Bernard Kriegel

    Okay, so you have doubts. He gives valid information on health, socialization, faith, with a multitude of wisdom.

    Learn something from this centenarian and reconstitute “Positive Thoughts” into your being.

    I want to give four letter obscenities to the group of negative (lack) of thinkers who have responded.

  • Mariola Grixti

    very inspiring, will certainly take Bernanardo’s advice into practice – my mom is turning 96 in January ‘2015- she has lived with us for 25 years, when I had my last daughter at 40 my mom at age 74 became her babystitter, while I returned to work – I am an only child – my children have been inspired by her dedication to exercise daily – she rode a bike till the age of 87 – we have to treasure, respect and take care of our elders – showing an example to our children of how a family unit functions and thrives

  • elise

    Oh my, such skeptics. Bernando is really 113. I have been to his house and shared a cup of his famous barley soup. He is mostly vegetarian but does eat sardines, salmon and other fish. He has the smoothest skin with no wrinkles..he is an amazing faith filled gentleman.

  • Itumeleng Phaphe

    @ Marco Wikkerink,

    Maybe people in the Netherlands don’t live to the ripe age old that Bernando has reached but he doesn’t have to do much to convince me that he is indeed 113. His wrinkle free skin maybe be down to genes- he is after all of African descent, but if one steers clear of the typical Western diet, junk, hydrogenated fats, saturated fats, the usual rubbish, its not very hard to live to his age. Bernando also enjoys daily gentle non-strenuous exercise like walking which has many energizing and anti-aging effects, unsurprisingly it has held him in good stead. He makes no mention of alcohol no smoking, he takes is easy, keeps his mind agilr and constantly challenged, gets plenty of rest, my goodness what else does the man need to do to convince people he is the age he says he is? The bar is set so low that people expect to die in their 60’s and 70’s and that by 90 one can barely walk for poor/declining health . I for one commend you Mr La Pallo. Great advice, I look forward to reading your book, and may you live for many more years. Cheers!

  • cindy edwards

    reading the story about Mr. Lapallo, has truly inspired me. This man looks great to be as old as he is. I am starting to take better care of myself, including eating properly. May you be blessed to have many more birthdays. I would love to meet you one day.

  • cindy edwards

    Reading the story about Mr. Lapallo has truly inspired me. This man looks great to be as old as he is. I have started to take better care of myself including eating healthier. I would love to meet him one day.May you be blessed with many more birthdays. God Bless.

  • Sean

    To those saying he is a vegan – he is not!
    He has lots of fish and sometimes eats lovely lambies

  • ian amor

    Hi I have done i great deal of research on training the mind the
    The interesting aspect of BERNARDO confirms my findings ,other than a reasonable diet B the attitude of mind is the key ..
    He wanted to live a long time , he keeps an interest in life by helping others … Most retire & dont expect much ..It is vital to look forward & plan & to achieve ….I am 79 & will be launching my startup soon designed to enhance the mind
    Ian ceo ” yobrain”

  • Alvin

    Mr. LaPallo is an inspiration for me. Wonderful story. Never sick a day in his live while living in New York. I am impressed. Over a hundred and still very active – awesome.

  • Robert Young

    While it’s clear that this man is quite aged, he may be several years younger than claimed:

    Just the facts.

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