I want to grow old and gray.
I want to age gracefully and be full of spit & vinegar with plenty of energy to enjoy the Golden Years.
I want to live a life of wellness and longevity.
Yep, those are my goals…….But, how??
I have always told my family, that I want to die when I am 95yrs old, in my sleep, and on a cruise ship!!! This would mean that….
- I have money to travel.
- I continue to be mobile enough to navigate a mammoth cruise liner.
- My memory is intact with clear thoughts…well, clear enough anyway!!
- I still enjoy a good time and lots of food. Maybe even Karaoke!!
As a Nurse Practitioner, I come across many elderly patients. Some are weak, sickly, and frail; while others are vibrant and enjoy life while golfing or participating in ballroom dance evenings.
Over the past couple of years, I have started to ask those that are active and living vibrant lives in their 90’s, what their secret was. This list is a breakdown of what they shared with me!
No doubt about it, staying active was a common theme shared with me. Most healthy elders walk at least a mile a day (rain or shine) or ride a recumbent bicycle regularly. One gentleman, in particular, goes dancing at the local dance hall 3-4 nights a week. He learned to dance with his wife in his early 80’s and continues to take her for fun evenings out. How romantic right?!?!?!
I was told by a couple elderly patients to never, ever, ever stop moving. They say “no matter if it hurts, stay off the couch”. Others have told me, “never retire” because working a regular schedule keeps you busy, social, and focused. I’m not so sure that I want to take that specific piece of advice, but I’ll accept the spirit behind it!!
There is an old adage that says, if you don’t use it, you will lose it! Yep, that applies here. If you don’t purposefully stay active, you will most likely lose the ability to do so!!
Drink More Beer
Well, this one surprised me!! Picture this…… I am an NP in a fancy lab coat with a stethoscope sitting across from a 98yr old patient asking him,”What advice do you have for us younger than you to stay healthy for as long as you have?” and he replies with all sincerity….”Drink more Beer”.
I literally laughed out loud & almost spit my breath mint out into my lap. He chuckled in response and said “yep…… drink more beer!!” and he was serious!
I now understand that he means to not limit yourself. You don’t have to say no ALL of the time. Go ahead, enjoy the finer things of life. Be safe, be smart, but always remember to be generous to yourself. Be sure to participate in activities, enjoy foods and drinks that you enjoy and use moderation as your guide.
I know that he doesn’t think a full-on daily kegger will help me live a long life….at least, I hope not!! – His liver is just fine and yes……….he continues to drink a little beer every now and then!! To stay healthy, he regularly practices the art of enjoying life while maintaining balance and self-control. Again…..moderation is the key.
No Advice, Just Keep Living
Many of my older patients simply responded with a shrug and had very little to no advice at all. They simply did not know how they managed to stay healthy and active into their 90’s. Many (meaning more than 50%) did NOT have parents that lived past 65 years old. Some had parents that died from heart disease, stroke, or cancer in their younger years.
To me, this shows that longevity is NOT all about genetics. A person CAN live well past the age their parents left this earth. Just because my mother died from cancer at 68 years old, it DOES NOT mean that I am destined to die young. Sure, this happens at times……..but, it doesn’t have to and I don’t have to fear my 60’s.
This means that you can live your life without fear of the end. You can focus on the present and spend less time dreading your future. Living without fear or worry allows you enjoy each day while it is happening. You can simply live a healthy life by continuing to live!! Should sickness come……take each day at a time and remember to keep living every day as best as you are able by making the most of EVERY DAY!!
Matthew 6:27 (ESV) :And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
Stay Involved and Be Too Stubborn to Die
I liked this answer the most and I received it a couple of times from a few different people over 90yrs. I was told, “I’m not ready”, “I’m too busy”, and “I have much more to do and I am not going to stop yet”. As the conversations continued, many finally admitted, “I’m too stubborn to die and you should be too”.
Basically, these seniors stay active with their church, community, neighbors, friends, and/or family. They are engaged in their life and not yet ready to slow down any more than they have to. Of course, being active isn’t as easy for them as it once was and they take longer to do the same thing as years before, but they are simply too stubborn to stop participating in life.
This stubbornness keeps them active, busy, less depressed, and increasingly motivated to keep living. Depression is a large problem in our elders and can be very crippling for them as they face loneliness and despair. Those that continue to stay active, engaged in life, and choose to live with a purpose have much less risk of depression and a significantly longer lifespan of wellness.
I don’t know about you, but I am going to do my best to take their advice!!!! Cheers!!
Job 12:12 (ESV): Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.
As I am sure you have already assumed…..the FDA has not reviewed these recommendations and I can NOT promise that you will attain a longer life by following the advice my patients have shared with me. Of course, if you drink a beer…DON’T DRIVE!!!! Drunk Driving will NOT help you or anyone else attain a long healthy life.
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