My mother always says she wants to live to be 100 and dancing! My great grandmother lived until she was 102. She played the piano for her own 100th birthday party. Watching a centenarian play the piano (and vigorously) is an inspiring sight! My great grandmother smoked until she was quite old so I wouldn’t say she was the poster child for the granola lifestyle. But I do remember her smiling and laughing a lot, which I am always drawn to. And I have to believe makes a difference. I’ve been thinking a lot about healthy aging lately and have told people that my running routine is really my retirement plan. So I was interested to see what researchers are saying about how these folks live so long. It turns out, of course, that there are no sure fire ways to ensure longevity. But here are some tips to consider.
1. Be social. Having friends (and extended family) is great for the spirit, and also helps lesson the emotional (and physical) burden of life. It helps reduce depression and keeps you feeling young (because by then, your entire social network is younger than you!)
2. Eat sensibly. Not surprisingly, it helps to adopt Michael Pollan’s simple mantra. Eat food (real food), not too much (stop before you get full), mostly plants (reduce the meat and dairy products).
3. Stay active. It’s good for the mind and body. A few articles I read shared many stories of men and women working well into their 90’s professionally and staying engaged in physical activity like gardening and walking.
4. Be chill. Following the above advice helps with ease stress levels, but also having experienced traumatic events teaches one to better cope with stress and poverty. Finding your sense of spirituality is important. And, I believe, learning to live within your means, simplifying life, and appreciating the present are all great ways to ease the stress.
Time Magazine had a cover story some years ago on the subject. They pointed out that today’s centenarian grew up in times when they had to walk miles to work because cars were not yet commonly owned. People labored in fields and ate what they grew. Another great argument for redesigning our communities to make it easier to walk and bike to work and stores. For supporting more small and mid-sized local farms, for community gardens and for slowing things down again.
I love the way they ended their article. “There’s a poetry of common sense in their scheme for immortality. Eat sensibly. Keep walking. Keep knitting. If you can’t keep friends, make new ones. Plan so much invigorating work that there’s just no time to die. And no regret when you do.”