Betty White is celebrating another year of life, but if you ask her about her age, she’s quick to remind you of one important fact: It doesn’t really matter. The sitcom star turns 99 on Sunday, and she’s still got an active career.
“You don’t fall off the planet once you pass a given age,” she said in a 1991 interview, “You don’t lose any of your zest for life, or your lust for life, if you will.”
Now 30 years later, and in the face of continued sidelining of older women in film and television, White has continued to have a successful career—and it’s part of her secret to longevity, even if she says she didn’t have one.
“I don’t have a secret,” she said in a 2018 interview with Parade. In the same breath, however, she said she plans to “never” retire. In another interview with the publication, she said, “I just love to work, so I’ll keep working until they stop asking.”
While she may believe she has no secrets, we think there are a few things White’s done in her life that may be to thank for her longevity:
1. She found what she loves and made it her purpose.
Her love of her work, and the sense of purpose it gave her, is probably a major part of White’s years of active success. Having purpose has been linked to improved physical and mental well-being, and it’s also been shown to help protect your brain.
White acknowledges that keeping busy has been a crucial part of her long and productive life. She encourages others to find their passions and to run with them.
“It’s not hard to find things you’re interested in,” White told Katie Couric in an interview to mark her 95th birthday. “Enjoy them. Indulge them. And I think that keeps you on your toes.”
If finding your purpose in life is too daunting at the moment, start small and find some things you love. For White, that thing is acting but also crossword puzzles and animals—”except possibly the two-legged kind,” the comedian quipped.
2. She doesn’t take herself too seriously and finds the joy where she can.
In her interview with Couric, she also reminded people to take a broader view of their world and their life: “Don’t focus everything on you; that wears out pretty fast.” She’s also all about self-reflection: “You can lie to others—not that I would—but you cannot lie to yourself,” she told Peopleahead of her latest birthday.
In the same interview, the actress also shared that she always tries to focus on “looking at the positive side,” on the happy moments and joyful things.
In the new year, we’re focused on cultivating and celebrating small moments of happiness with our “Resolution Joy” series—and we like to think that’s something White herself could get behind.
3. She supports causes she believes in.
White is actively involved in supporting lots of causes, many tied to things she loves, like animals. She’s a trustee of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association and wrote a book called Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo. She’s also said she aspired to be a forest ranger or a zookeeper before she decided to pursue acting. In fact, she’s actually been made an honorary forest ranger.
Find something you’re passionate about supporting. Don’t know where to start? Here are three tips to help you find the right volunteer opportunity.
4. She lives in the moment.
The other thing she focuses on? Living in the present, and enjoying what life has given her. “I don’t think about things I might have missed out on,” she told Parade.
In her Couric interview, she also gave advice for dealing with grief after loss, saying she focused on what was happening in the moment. “You don’t look ahead, and you try not to look back,” she told the host.
Whatever the secrets are to her long life, and whether she believes she has them or not, White’s definitely doing something right. One thing is for sure: Her work brings joy to so many, and for that, we’re grateful. Happy birthday, Betty!