- Education and Science
How To Achieve Longevity -- Lessons Learned From My 93-Year-Old Grandmother
You Can Live To Be 100
A few weeks ago, my grandmother celebrated her 93rd birthday. Happily, she has a lot to celebrate (knock on wood). She still has all of her wits about her, she's still independent, she's still able to live by herself and she's still very active.
Of course, there are plenty of things that aren't so great in her life: she has stomach problems, a slight hearing loss and walks with a cane when it rains, courtesy of a hip she broke almost 20 years ago. Moreover at 93, all of her close friends have died so there are days when she gets lonely.
Still, she realizes what a blessing it is that she's still alive and is always telling me, "I'm just happy when I wake up in the morning. But if I die tomorrow, I have no regrets." After years of being around her, though, I'm realizing that her living this long doesn't only have to do with luck (though that helps!). She's made many of the same lifestyle choices that scientists say can help people live into their 90s, or even 100s.
That said, I'm realistic about my grandmother's chances of making it to 100. But I'm holding out hope and find her to be an inspiration regardless! See below for more tips on how you can live to be 100.
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Tips For Living A Long Time
When scientists have studied centenarians -- such as the group that live in Okinawa, Japan, which has more 100-year-olds than any other place in the world -- they've found that most have some things in common. Here are some of the habits that scientists believe can help a person live longer -- and how my grandmother fits in:
1. It's in the genes: Let's face it, your family history counts. In my grandmother's case, all five of her siblings lived in their 80s or 90s, and her younger brother is also still alive at 88. So she's starting off with an advantage ... though that can only go so far.
2. She eats a restricted calorie diet. Part of the reason why the Japanese are so healthy is because they live on nutritious, low-calorie fare like fish and rice, and fresh produce. My grandmother is not a healthy eater; she lives on fish cakes and pudding. But she doesn't eat much of it. She's been tall and thin for her entire life and only eats when she's hungry. She eats to live, rather than the other way around.
3. She steers clear of chemical substances. Most centenarians don't smoke, do drugs and only drink in moderation. My grandmother is an example of this. She quit smoking cold turkey in her 70s and hasn't touched a cigarette since. Meantime, she only drinks alcohol at weddings or parties, and never to the point where she's completely trashed.
4. She has a passion. Centenarians who've found something they enjoy doing, i.e. gardening or painting, tend to live longer because having a hobby or passion keeps their spirit alive. In my grandmother's case, she's a fantastic knitter and loves doing it. She also enjoys gambling and makes a point to go to Atlantic City at least once a month. She eats at the same diner three times a week because she likes the people there and feels at home. She watched Judge Judy every day. And she takes art classes at the senior center near her home.
5. She has close ties to her family. For most centenarians, having loved ones around also helped keep them alive. Indeed having a close network of friends and family can help you deal with things like depression, which can age you. As I said earlier, a lot of my grandmother's friends have died, but she's still in touch with her children and nieces and nephews. There have been a few feuds in my family, but she's the one person whom everyone talks to!
6. She's still active. Indeed, centenarians who've exercised for their entire lives or have been extremely active are in better shape than most elderly, both phsyically and mentally. As for my grandmother, she lives on the second floor of her building, but is still able to climb the steps. She walks around her neighborhood doing errands almost every day.
7. She has a can-do attitude. Having a tough mental constitution can also help you live longer, say scientists. This definitely fits my grandmother. Last year, she came down with a nasty case of the shingles, but refused to go to a nursing home. Though she could barely move her hand, she continued to knit. She then broke her wrist and still continued to knit and do chores! These days, she's in better shape, but her never-give-in attitude inspired me, and I believe is what got her through a very tough time.
8. She enjoys her life. My grandmother has lived a very hard life. She lost her husband at a young age and had to work two jobs to take care of her kids. And now at 93, she's not quite sure how long her future really is. Yet she makes the best out of every situation. While her friends are dead, she goes to the senior center and has met some new people. She spends hours on the phone talking to friends and family. She loves getting together for family affairs and hearing all the gossip. She loves to give me advice ... even though it doesn't always make sense and I don't always ask for it!
Though I'm young, I sometimes envy my grandmother because she's made it this far and is still doing so well. I hope I can learn from her and follow her very long footsteps.