One Centenarian’s Secret to Happiness

100 in gold balloons

by Sydney Page for the Washington Post

Paul Snyder walks around Kensington, Md., wearing a hat that reads: “MADE IN 1921.” It’s a good conversation starter.

At almost 102 years old, Snyder believes the secret to successful aging is making new friends. He befriends people wherever he goes: the grocery store, the doctor’s office, church, the nail salon. Many people in his Parkwood neighborhood call him “Grandpa Paul.”

“At 101, most of your close friends have gone by,” said Snyder, who has lived in the same home since 1951. “But you can keep making new ones.”

Snyder’s circle of pals grows weekly. Some of his fondest bonds have been formed in recent years.

Maintaining “strong ties” — or the relationships we have with family and close friends — is important to Snyder, but he also understands the value of what sociologists call “weak ties” — casual acquaintances, such as neighbors, store workers and bank tellers. Daily interactions like these, experts say, have significant effects on health and well-being.

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