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Work Longer, Live Longer? Most People Capable of Living to 90, Researcher Says 

George Doyle/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Wesley Brown, Agnes Zhelesnik and Seth Glickenhaus are older than 95 and still working -- not because they have to but because they want to.

"I love my work," Glickenhaus, who is 97 and a senior partner at investment firm Glickenhaus and Co. in New York City, said. "I'm the Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan of money and investing."

Glickenhaus started working in 1929 during his summer breaks from Harvard and has been working ever since.

Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University, said it all comes down to an individual's cognitive ability.

"As long as they are cognitively intact, they are virtually immortal," he said. "It is only once we see a decline in their cognitive function is their mortality quite high."

At 103, U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown is the oldest federal judge in the nation and has taken his lifetime appointment from President Kennedy to heart.

Perls said living beyond 100 years requires an increasingly important genetic component, but that most people are capable of living to 90.

While Brown lives for service and Glickenhaus lives for finance, Agnes Zhelesnik lives to teach. At 97, Zhelesnik is believed to be the nation's oldest full-time teacher.

Such a sense of purpose and meaning plays an important role in longevity, Perls of Boston University said. "It is vital to have a cause to wake up to every morning," he said. "There has to be something to get you up and keep you engaged."

Perls said people like Brown, Zhelesnik and Glickenhaus tend to be extroverts who easily establish friendships and thrive on their relationships with others. They also usually handle stress well and score low on neuroticism.

The secret might just be in not looking too far ahead.

"I celebrate everyday, I've done that all my life," Glickenhaus said. "I don't really believe much in birthday celebrations. When I'm 125, I might think about celebrating....I take it very much in stride."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

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