One of my personal goals is to live to be 100 AND to be healthy and happy the whole way. I don’t want to just be a centenarian. I want to be zippy, on the go, full of zest and vitality! Yes, I know that there will be the inevitable aches and pains, sorrow and loss along the way, but I expect the joy of life to more than compensate.
I want to live to be 100 for several reasons. First, it seems like a cool thing to do and fits with some weird internal definition of winning the game of life, defying the fates, whatever.
Second, there are sooooo many things I want to do, so many goals, so many lives and types of lives I’d like to try. As I’m a bit of a competitive type (It’s not that I’m a workaholic, its just that I work to relax), I will always want to be productive at something: learning, growing, grokking,** evolving. It seems that as time goes by, it should be easier to kick back and coast a bit and take up slower but still richly meaningful pursuits: gardening? (I love walking in nature, tall trees, green ferns). Travel the world? Immerse myself in wandering the 2-lane blacktop back roads of America? Do all the literary stuff I’ve always wanted to do? Read and write to my heart’s content? (Recently got invited by Victor Navasky, The Nation magazine’s publisher emeritus, to join the advisory board of Columbia Journalism Review.) Off-Broadway aficionado? Volunteer as an attorney for the ACLU? (Got invited to join the Florida ACLU board, attending a meeting shortly to see what it entails.) Anyway, you get the picture. Less business, more exploration.
Third, at the age of 55 I found myself with a 3-month-old son, my first child. To my delight, an incredible joy. The longer I live, the more life I get to share with him. I’ve always wanted to live a very long and active life and he just gave me the best reason of all.
A recent WebMD survey of centenarians listed their top ten healthy aging lifestyle habits:
1. 90%, Relationships with family and friends (staying close with them)
2. 89%, Be a lifelong learner and keep your mind active
3. 88%, Laugh and have a sense of humor
4. 84%, Stay in touch with your spirituality
5. 83%, Be optimistic and continue looking forward to each new day
6. 82%, Stay active, keep moving and exercising
7. 81%, Maintain a sense of independence
8. 80%, Healthy nutrition choices (eat right and smart)
9. 63%, Keep yourself up with news and current events
10. 63%, Keep making new friends (never stop being social and building new relationships)
The number of centenarians is increasing by 8% each year, compared with 1% for other age groups. More than 90% of the centenarians reported good health until they reached their early 90s. About 15 percent of centenarians live by themselves and are completely independent. One in 3,300 Americans is a centenarian and they are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.
The top ten healthy aging lifestyle habits of centenarians reads like an excellent checklist for happiness for everyone of any age.
“Every man desires to live long but no man would be old.” — Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) Irish writer, satirist
“Why hope to live a long life if we’re only going to fill it with self-absorption, body maintenance, and image repair? When we die, do we want people to exclaim ‘She looked ten years younger,’ or do we want them to say ‘She lived a great life’?” — Unknown
“Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?” — Job 12:12
**To grok is to share the same reality or line of thinking with another physical or conceptual entity. Author Robert A. Heinlein coined the term in his best-selling 1961 book “Stranger in a Strange Land.” In Heinlein’s view, grokking is the intermingling of intelligence that necessarily affects both the observer and the observed