Living a long time brings with it many questions from younger people seeking the “key” to increase longevity. While I, now at age 81, really do not understand why I have been so fortunate since both my parents died in their 30s and my only sibling, a brother, passed on at 74 a dozen years ago, I believe I may encourage many to think about the process which successfully brought me to where I am. My added years are at odds with my early years in that, I not only served in combat in WWII without serious harm but it is a medical fact that my growth was retarded during infancy by illness and malnutrition.
Over the period of some years I have long pondered the essential question “why me?” Since this has proven to be an unrewarding query, I have instead tried to distill what I have read and learned over the years which undoubtedly has added to my longevity. Furthermore, if adopted and implemented by those who follow me in age, there seemingly may be some positive benefit in my sharing these ideas with anyone who cares to read them. I therefore present the following and claim no exclusivity or copyright on this material since most of it has come from experience or life-long reading and consideration of the ideas of others.
1. Concentrate on saving for retirement, but don’t retire early, thus relieving much financial anxiety as you age because your savings cannot be stretched to cover a longer than anticipated life-span.
2. Early on, give some thought to what you want to do when you cease your regular employment. Whatever you decide to do as an alternative to continuing your employment, undertake early to prepare for your new occupation or position.
3. Keep your social contacts and work them from time to time; don’t isolate yourself from new friends and circumstances. Pay particular attention to-and possibly mentor-young people who, in turn, will aid in keeping you and your outlook both youthful and contemporary.
4. Monitor your weight and pay attention to your teeth and your feet; don’t let vanity prevent you from wearing sensible, comfortable clothing and footwear. Also, attend to the inevitable loss of hearing which accompanies aging and accept the need for procuring and using hearing aids. Today, hearing aids are remarkably small and effective and offer a defense against personal withdrawal because of an inability to hear or to understandably carry on a two-way conversation.
5. Falling while walking is a grave danger to the elderly, quickly incapacitating one with a broken hip or other bones. The resulting disability is permanent in a large percentage of cases and is often the start of a downward spiral. If you are beginning to feel unsure of step while walking, start using a cane to help avoid this disabling event. The foregoing is particularly true with respect to those who are taking multiple prescription drugs. Some of these necessary medications contribute to poor balance and dizziness.
6. Continue to have a purpose and function in life such as making contributions to your specialty field, or activity which constitutes service in some way to those around you.
7. Long-term medical studies have validated that the ingestion of small daily doses of aspirin reduces the incidence of heart attacks and coronary diseases. No one seems to know why this is so, but pragmatically following this advice would appear to be wise.
8. Stay physically active and regularly exercise moderately in keeping with your age and ability.
9. Avoid depressive sights and scene. Growing old is not for sissies, and the older we grow the more our minds revert to happier times, made more so than actual by invidious comparison of the aged present. Don’t concentrate on those who has gone before you; focus on those still around!
10. Find and use a doctor skilled in geriatric medicine, one who is dedicated to helping you hold on to independent life.
Finally, remember that the quality of a life is often more important than its duration. Old age and experience will often trump youth and skill but that does not mean that those of much younger years have it less right than you do. It is a notable fact in my experience that malcontents move the world. ■