Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Secrets to Living a Long Life

Did earlier generations have some secret to longevity that we just don’t get today?

My grandmother and my great aunt Inga both lived well into their late 80’s and early 90’s. And they lived, traveling to Washington in their advanced years to see the cherry blossoms and generally having a great time together. Striking blonde Norwegians with big beautiful eyes who were flappers back in the day. Racing around in big cars, wearing fur coats and carrying flasks of whiskey while they chased down the next party. Looking far too knowing and far too pretty in the old brown photos.

Nowadays people drop right and left from things like smoking and tanning. In the old days, they relished the outdoors- and we’ve all heard stories of someone who knew someone who smoked his whole life and lived to be 100.

On the Today show this morning they celebrated centurions. Some of them have been celebrating every year now for several years.

Dave is 100. He’s been to every country in the world, save three.

John is 108. And was one of the first members of the St. Louis Symphony.

A local woman, Winnie is 102. And known for her fried pies! Go figure. They find someone from here and she’s known for her weird specialty fried food.

They live in Naples, Florida, Bainbridge Island, Washington and too many other beautiful places to list.

What’s the secret to a long life? Living an interesting life? Living in a beautiful place?

Or just digging in your heels and refusing to go?

Or maybe they have so many beautiful memories of a life well-lived… They just keep reliving them over and over again.

Buried among the Google results for longevity, a long list of vitamins, potions and elixirs that will allow you to live forever, I found an article that discussed the people of Okinawa. Okinawa has more centurions than any other place on earth. What are their secrets? And how do I rate?

  1. Maintaining a healthy, positive attitude about life. Okinawans believe that everything will work itself out so there’s no reason to worry about anything. Great. I worry about everything. All the time. I worry about my family, my friends, hell, I worry about people I don’t even know. I’ll give myself a 7 out of 10 on the worrywart scale.
  2. Okinawans form strong relationships and have an active social life. I’m all over this secret for longevity. True, they didn’t specifically mention alcohol. But surely that’s a component of these longevity-inducing social gatherings. I score a 10/10 on the social butterfly scale.
  3. The people of Okinawa eat a very healthy diet. Well. I am trying to eat a very healthy diet. Beer and potato chips seem to keep sneaking in the back door but I stand strong against them both (most of the time). I’ll give myself a 7 for my healthy dieting efforts.
  4. Lead an active life like the Okinawans and you’ll live forever; they exercise daily, do tai chi and work in the garden. Again. I am trying. I walk along the river and ride my exercise bike and I will start yoga again. Soon. I get a another 7 out of 10 for activity.
  5. Refrain from bad habits. No smoking or alcohol. I guess I should have read ahead. I get a 3 out of 10 for my many vices. Which are too comprehensive to list here.
  6. Work at a relaxed pace. I have this one nailed! I should be able to tack on a few more years to my life with this one. Maybe that will make up for all of my minuses. I score a 9 out of 10 for working at my own pace.

But even in Okinawa, the younger generations show signs of becoming the unhealthiest group in Japan. They are obese, and most of the young men smoke.

My well-researched article then deteriorated into hawking the benefits of fish oil. Which I already take, by the way. Just one of several vitamins I ingest daily.

Hopefully, like the article says, they’ll keep me young and healthy.