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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/104

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

result of these unions is five, and those children now living are generally recorded in the blanks as healthy.

The fact that in Massachusetts, taking the whole population into account, the women exceed the men by several thousand, accounts in some degree for the greater number of old women, but not, certainly, for anything like half of the excess over the men. I attribute this excess to the fact that during the past half-century the bulk of the population of Massachusetts has been on the seaboard, and a large number of the men have been fishermen and mariners. Because of the great loss of life among this class, especially before the time of steamships and during the palmy days of the whale-fishery, the male population shrank in numbers below the normal level, this showing most strikingly in a list of old people.

Another very peculiar thing revealed by this canvass is the fact that five out of six of these New England old folks have a light complexion, with blue or gray eyes, and abundant brown hair. In stature the men are mostly tall and the women of medium height; in weight the men range from 100 to 160 pounds, with a few of 200 and over, and the women from 100 to 120, with exceptional cases of 180 and over. Throughout life the men have been bony and muscular, the women exactly opposite. The condition of the hair, teeth, beard, and skin of these old people at the time when the blanks were filled out was recorded in about 2,500 instances. In nearly all the hair remains thick, the teeth are very poor or entirely gone, the skin is only slightly wrinkled, and very few of the men wear any beard. In many instances the correspondents speak of the skin as being "fair, soft, smooth, and moist." One case is given, that of a man of eighty-nine, from whose mouth not a tooth has been lost. In most instances of those not over ninety the eye-sight is still good, and in dozens of cases it is pronounced "remarkably good."

Habits.—The information which the blanks give on the subject of habits coincides with the opinion of most people, formed from observation, that longevity without regularity of habits is rare. These old people, men and women alike, are put down as early risers and retirers, almost without exception, and fully nineteen out of every twenty have observed this custom throughout life, except perhaps at some short period in youth. Meals have been eaten regularly, three each day, with dinner at noon, the exceptions being so rare as to indicate nothing. Exercise in most cases has been hard work up to sixty-five or seventy, and after that period has consisted (when the regular occupation has been given up) of walking, gardening, or both. Except in cases of sickness these old people are as a rule as active and as fond of constant occupation of some sort to-day as most men and women are at thirty-five.