World’s oldest couple lives in Austin; their advice for a happy life

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — John and Charlotte Henderson have a big anniversary coming up in December: their 80th wedding anniversary. While that’s an accomplishment in and of itself, they recently found out they hit another major milestone. John is 106 years old and Charlotte is 105; the sum, 211 years, earned them the Guinness World Record for oldest married couple. The title came as quite a surprise.

Guinness World Records – Oldest Married Couple, John and Charlotte Henderson

“[It’s] Overwhelming. Actually, we never thought anything like this could come true. Two people like us–just normal individuals,” said John. We met with the Hendersons at Longhorn Village in Steiner Ranch where they’ve lived for about ten years. They met when they were students at the University of Texas in 1934. They married five years later.

“He was a fine fella and had this car — a little Roadster — and he would come by my home and pick me up every morning and take me to my class,” recalls Charlotte. She was studying to become a teacher. John played football for the Longhorns. He’s actually the oldest former UT football player and until very recently, he went to at least one game every season.

Former UT football coach Mack Brown gives John Henderson a jersey

“The game today is so different from what it was when I played.” That’s back when players wore leather helmets. “Not like these hard hats they wear today,” he said before revealing that he has one of those hard hats himself now. “Mack Brown — his last year here at UT — he gave me a jersey with my number on it and one of the plastic helmets which I have with my number on the side.”

That’s just one memory of 106 years worth of memories John is able to share in great detail. His mind his sharper than you’d ever expect for a centenarian. He reads the newspaper every morning and exercises for twenty to thirty minutes each day. “I think that’s one thing that keeps me going–I don’t sit in the easy chair and go to sleep. I’ve seen too many individuals retire, take the EasyChair route, and they don’t last as long as I’ve lasted.”

Another theory to explain the Hendersons’ longevity: optimism. Their great-nephew, Jason Free, says they’ve always been that way. He’s the one who contacted Guinness and sent in the necessary paperwork. “They’ve always been forward-looking people and they’ve certainly — they remember the past and they’ll tell you the stories of the past, but they don’t live back in the past.”

John and Charlotte Henderson

The Hendersons moved to the Houston area for many years but ultimately came back to Austin. Charlotte requires more medical attention now and was recently moved to a different unit at Longhorn Village. John remains in their independent living apartment. Their nephew says living apart has been a real challenge for them. They’ve spent the better part of their lives together, so it’s quite an adjustment. They join each other for lunch and dinner every day, though. John says the key is to take life one day at a time. “Try to make tomorrow a better day than today. Be grateful for what you’re given and make the best of it.”

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