A few days ago our town lost its oldest resident, Ada Cooper Miller, who had turned 111 years old back in December. Born in 1903 in England, Ada came to the United States as an infant and made a name and life for herself in Hudson, Ohio. She graduated from Western Reserve Academy in 1924, married in 1927, ran a family floral business for 75 years, and served on the local school board for 40 years (20 of those years as its president). She retired in 2005, at nearly age 100 and spent the last few years in assisted care. Well into her 90s Ada was dancing, playing bridge, and doing floral arrangements. It seems to me that there is much to learn from the beautiful woman's long and beautiful life.
I recently read an article that cited a statistical report projecting that one-third of the babies born in 2013 could expect to live to age 100. That is an astonishing number. Many of us expect, or at least desire, to live to a quite elderly age. So what does that mean in terms of how we live today? How do we plan for a life that is not only long but also well-lived? These are the questions I find intriguing because they point to the importance of present action for future payoff.
I also took a longevity calculator that put me at living to age 99. With a few, and not very difficult, modifications that number could go up to 104. I'm not an expert on centegenarians, but Ada's life inspired me to do some reading on the subject. Additionally, I've been studying Ayurveda: the science of life/longevity, for a few years. Ayurveda is an ancient Indian health and life science that offers practical advice on managing our body/personality types and the daily challenges of our lives. I've put together a few ideas on how all of us can improve our changes of joining the 100+ crowd.
- Keep your brain active (reading, puzzles, playing an instrument, playing games, studying something--anything!)
- Keep your body active: walk, lift, stretch and PLAY
- Eat sensibly and moderately
- Drink tea, especially green, but they are all good in their own ways
- Don't smoke, limit alcohol
- Sleep--get to bed early
- Manage your stress with meditation, prayer and yoga
- Maintain strong relationships with a partner, family, friends, clubs/organizations
- Be involved in civics, service or community work--or a vocation that serves others
- Work, but don't overwork
- Get your check-ups regularly
- Brush, floss and tongue-scrape
- Maintain a positive attitude about your age
Something that I didn't come across, but that I would add to the list, would be to seek out and enjoy beauty and accomplishment. Listen to terrific music, go to art museums and galleries, walk in nature, read some form of poetry or spiritual work daily. Inspiration is key to a life richly-lived. I would also add to be wise and prudent, but not mean, in your financial habits. Overspending to keep up appearances or for immediate gratification won't help you if you do reach the centenarian club! I'd rather spend on experiences than things. Travel to me is much more gratifying than expensive jewelry or clothing. Small thoughtful gifts seem to always mean more to the recipient: a magazine you think they'll like or a piece of jewelry from a arts/crafts fair.
What will I be working on in the near future (so that I can enjoy a long future)? I need to work fewer hours. My work is cerebral, not necessarily physical, but it still occupies too many of my waking hours and too much of my energy. I perhaps need to draw better boundaries, or to not worry so deeply about everything being done to its highest degree. I would like to be reading more and having just received a 100 memoirs/biographies list from Amazon am inspired to start working my way through it. I love memoir especially and want to get back to reading this genre. I always learn so much in the process. I cannot wait for nicer weather so that I can walk outdoors, but I'll continue to do indoor walking dvd's and practice yoga.
Positivity is probably the most important thing for me to keep my eye on. I don't want to be one of those older people spending my days complaining about how great things used to be and how lousy they are now. It's an energy vacuum and a real turn-off. I turn fifty this year--the half-way mark. I don't want to assume that it's all "downhill" from here. Rather, I want to look forward to more joy, deep gratification and connection with others. I have a lot of living left to do and I want to do in the spirit of Ada Cooper Miller. Inspired, engaged, feisty and full of gratitude.