longevity


Aging and Relationships

 

Hopefully, as we age, we all learn it’s our relationships with friends and family that are the most important components in our lives. Unfortunately, there are some out there who prefer to isolate themselves, but they are the exceptions. The important fact is, there’s a considerable amount of scientific research that shows people who continue to maintain and create new relationships tend to be much healthier and age more successfully than those who live in isolation.  

I’m not sure I needed the reminder, but over the last few weeks I’ve been very fortunate in the relationship category. First of all, traveling to the east coast, one of our sons and his wife blessed us with another grandchild, an incredibly beautiful little girl. Just as happened with all of our grandchildren, that first glimpse of this little angel took our breath and stole our hearts. Holding her tiny body in my hands was overwhelming and there is surely no greater feeling than that of pure love.

Additionally, on this trip we were fortunate to further reconnect with friends made back in my Air Force days. It’s amazing how much time has past, but how much time has stood still in our friendship. These are wonderful people with whom we share great memories, and hopefully we will have many more good times ahead.

As also happens when one travels, my wife Trisha and I were so pleased to make the acquaintance of several new people we look forward to getting to know better in the future. It seems the more you open yourself up to this kind of opportunity, the more people you can meet and share a relationship.

Finally, this week marks the birthday of my wonderful wife Trisha. I’ve now known her for over half a century and been married to her for nearly forty-four years. She is clearly the kindest and most considerate person I have ever known. She wakes each day with a smile and continues to brighten the day of everyone she encounters. For her, difficult situations are simply problems to be solved. She’s not petty, doesn’t complain, and is always positive. She’s warm and loving, and completely devoted to her family. She’s extraordinarily beautiful on both the outside and inside. I couldn’t ask for a better relationship. Happy Birthday Trisha!

One last but important note I want to share. One of my Air Force buddies is in need of a kidney transplant. If everyone who reads this would share this information, perhaps he could be helped. I know that as we age, this kind of decision is probably not one we nor our doctors would advise, but sometimes circumstances arise and the more people that know of this need, the greater the possibility he might be helped. Feel free to contact me.  

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Managing Senior Stress

 

     As a senior, one of the things I most looked forward to in my retired life was getting away from stress. While most of my friends and colleagues always said they considered me to be calm and easy-going, inwardly I was always very driven, highly motivated, and somewhat of a classic Type A person.

    

     Of course, becoming a senior and/or retiring, especially in this day and age, does not magically remove one’s stress. In fact, our current culture seems to have evolved into one that creates and promotes stress on a daily basis. How many times a day do we hear ominous sounds emanate from our radios and televisions just prior to hearing words like “news alert” or “news update?”  Is it a nuclear attack or is a tsunami headed our way? No. Usually it’s a story about some overpaid baseball player or Anthony Wiener has shared more pictures of his private parts. Our politicians and media seem to have conspired to keep us in a state of constant unrest. The truth is there is plenty of stress for seniors without any additional stress factors being artificially created.

    

     Because on average we now live longer, we have to contend with more health issues than ever before. The economy and other societal changes have also served up a large portion of stress. Concern over the possibility of outliving our financial resources is also a stress factor for seniors.Added to the list is the fact the economy has not provided the best opportunities for young people, which in turn has created a myriad of family issues ranging from joblessness to high rates of divorce. More than previous generations, parents and grandparents are often put in the position of having to cope with a range of these stressful family and financial issues.

    

     Having researched the topic of stress and its impact for many years, I’ve collected a list of what I consider to be the best possible remedies for managing senior stress. They won’t solve the causes of stress such as economic concerns or difficult family issues, but they can potentially help individuals manage the stress such problems create. Rather than the sleeping pills and alcohol  many seniors seem to rely on, consider these stress management suggestions and techniques:

Regular Exercise – A routine of regular exercise can not only help to make you more healthy, it can provide both mental and physical relief from stress.

Stay Positive – Do everything within your power to maintain a positive attitude toward life and those around you.

Spend Time With Positive People – The world is filled with whiners and complainers, but there are also those who continue to have a positive outlook on life.

Spend Time With Those Who Deserve It – Life is too short, especially as a senior, to spend a minute with someone who doesn’t respect or value you.

Keep Life Lighthearted – While society and the media seem to want us to live in a state of constant crisis, try to view life through a prism of lightheartedness.

Become Solution Oriented – One of my life’s greatest blessings is being married to a woman who doesn’t agonize over problems, but views every problem as a situation to be managed by finding a solution.

Explore Your Faith – One of my best friends and co-author of a book we wrote together spent years without exploring her faith. Once she did, she changed her life and even returned to school earning another Ph.D. This one was in religion.

Breathe – As a former consultant, some of my best results working with clients involved the simple act of getting them to calm down through slow breathing when stressed.

Look Good, Feel Good – My late parents, while I was growing up and later in life when they lived in our home, and my wife always put forward this philosophy. While none of them ever walked around the house in formal attire, all of them always maintained a state of good grooming and dressed in fresh clean clothes. All I can say is “it works.”

Let Music Relax You – Very few things can transform your mood and general well-being as listening to some of your favorite music.

Compliment Others – Not only will this make you feel good, it will make someone’s day and will most likely provide you some good karma.

Find Some Quiet Time – This can be used for meditation, prayer, positive affirmations, or simple relaxation. Once, while teaching at Pepperdine University in Malibu, I walked into my evening class and several students appeared concerned. Apparently, on their way to class they saw me standing alone and gazing into the distance. When they expressed their concern I told them I was simply enjoying the sunset over the Pacific.

Turn Off The News – Whether it’s for an hour or a couple of days, get away from the news. I know people who will follow a tragic story for days. If you can help the people in the story, do so, but don’t constantly involve yourself in the stress.

Create a Stress-Free Environment – I’m smiling as I write this because certain events had served to create a complete mess in my walk-in closet recently. Feeling very stressed each time I slid open the door, just yesterday I’d had enough and launched a two-day cleanup and reorganization. Getting organized, simplifying, and fixing the things that need fixing in your environment is a sure way to reduce stress.

Keep Life Simple – As you probably did in business, each morning create a simple to-do list. Give yourself ample time to complete your tasks and if you don’t finish something, put it at the top of tomorrow’s list. Another suggestion is to not over-book your schedule. You do not have to accept every invitation or make time for everyone you know. It’s your life and your schedule.

Pursue Your Love Life – The research is very clear that seniors who continue to engage in sexual activity live longer and healthier lives.

Look For The Good In Everyone and Everything – Increasingly, we seem to live in a culture where everyone is a critic on almost every subject. To stay positive, it’s important we look for the good.

Forgive – As seniors, almost all of us have had incidents and persons in our lives that have created tension and regrets. In some cases these situations may be very serious and irreparable. The fact is, you don’t have to forgive and make up with someone who has caused you pain, but if you can forgive them in your heart and move on, you will relieve a great deal of built up stress.

Don’t Worry – As the song says, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Worry never prevented or solved anything, it only serves to create more stress. 

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Feliciano

When my wife Trisha and I speak to senior groups and organizations about successful aging, one of our most important recommendations is to socialize. Living in isolation has long been shown to be extremely detrimental to both our physical and mental well-being. Remaining social as we age has been one of the most studied and verified behaviors for continued good health and mental fitness.

This brings me to my story. More than forty years ago during the Viet Nam era, I served in the U. S. Air Force. After my first tour of duty stateside, I was sent to a NATO base in southern Italy. Being a newly wed, I desperately wanted my wife to join me. Not having much money, I devised a plan whereby I gave a buddy who was sending his wife home on a Christmas charter a few bucks, and my wife assumed her identity on the return flight. Being in such a remote part of the country, there was no room on the base for us to live so we had to live on the local economy.

Prior to her arrival, I heard of a man in a small town several miles away (it actually had a small castle) that would rent to Americans from the base. I borrowed a car and went to talk with him. He turned out to be a wonderful man named Feliciano. He was the town electrician and had four apartments above his business. He spoke very good English because during WWII he was captured by the allies early on and spent the entire war on a farm in Scotland. Beyond his language skills, during his captivity he realized a value and interest in meeting people from other cultures and perspectives. I was able to rent an apartment from him and it would be our home until my two-year tour was finished.

Visiting with Feliciano was a daily occurrence. Watching soccer on the television in his shop was great fun. He was interesting, polite, and what we might call an “old world gentleman.” Our frequent parties and loud music  brought an occasional knock on our door, but he just smiled and would say “some of the old people have complained.”

I recently discovered Feliciano died last year. It seems his beloved wife had passed away ten years ago and both of his daughters had moved out of the country to be with their husbands. The NATO base had long since closed, and when he retired, Feliciano was left with only his little home on the quiet street of his small Italian village. Finally, one morning he dressed in his suit and tie, lay on his back, put a pistol under his shirt and pulled the trigger. Unbelievably, the official report said he then pulled his shirt down and died. Proper to the end.

Learning of Feliciano’s death, and perhaps more disturbing, his loneliness, has left me very sad. I know he tried all he could to be social and he lived in isolation for as long as he could. I hope he is at peace now.

The life lessons here are so obvious, I’ll spare you the clichés. For us, hearing about our old friend got Trisha and me reminiscing about our time in that village. After some detective work on the internet, I was able to locate a couple who were good friends from our time in Feliciano’s apartment house. They live on the other side of the country, and we haven’t seen them in forty years, but we already have plans to get together sometime next month. I think Feliciano would be very pleased.

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I recently heard a man complain about some of his friends who had taken up jogging. They were constantly bugging him to jog with them. He finally gave in and said he would jog with them, but only for 1/4 mile. He would later exclaim, “It was the worst three hours of my life.”

I thought it was a funny line. On the serious side of getting in shape, perhaps you have heard about the Frenchman Robert Marchand. Mr. Marchand recently set a record riding a bike for 15 miles on an indoor track in one hour. Robert is 100 years old.

A new report estimates that more than one-third of babies born this year will live to be over 100 years old. Good for them, but what about us old timers? Well, the current average life expectancy in the U. S. for both men and women is between 78 and 79 years. Overall, women usually live two to four years longer, but men are catching up quickly. 

So what are the factors that allow someone to live to be 100 or more? A recent study, The New England Longevity Study, concludes there are four major factors that would allow a person to live to 100. Not surprisingly they are: genetics, environment, lifestyle, and luck. Most of us would probably guess genetics would be the most significant factor. That’s correct. But the study also found genetics is only a 25-30% factor, much less than previously thought. The good news is, if we are somewhat lucky (i.e., don’t get clobbered by a bus or suffer some other accidental disaster) can control our environment and live an appropriate lifestyle, our chances of living to be 100 aren’t that bad.

In their recently published book, The Longevity Project, authors Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, determined six personality traits of people who live to be 100. They are:

Conscientiousness

A conscientious person is someone who tends to all matters including their own personal health.

Healthy Habits

Simply put, the research tells us there are very few smokers who live to be 100, and no obese people.

Working Long and Hard

Mental stimulation is the key. Even stressful work provides the mental stimulation found in those who live to be 100. Remember our Frenchman friend Robert Marchand? He worked until he was 89.

Active Life

As my wife Trisha and I pointed out in our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life, it’s not as much aging as it is inactivity that causes a person to lose strength and stamina. In addition, there are now numerous studies that indicate maintaining muscle strength plays a role in staving off cognitive decline and possibly Alzheimer’s.

Stong Social Network

In their book, Friedman and Martin conclude a strong social network is the “strongest predictor of long life,” and the New England study describes this predictor as “extraversion,” calling it the key trait.

Good Health

While this is an obvious predictor of a long life, the New England study found a high percentage of people who have already lived to be 100 had encountered a serious health problem at some point in their lives. These “survivors” were able to overcome their health problem and live on to their ripe old age.

My reading and research on this subject concures with all of the above. I would, however, make a couple of additions or distinctions. A positive attitude, probably an aspect of every one of the previously stated factors cannot be denied as having a strong influence on longevity. The other longevity factor that more and more research has discovered is adequate sleep. Both stroke and heart disease have recently been correlated to inadequate sleep.

As I look over all of these factors and traits, I can’t help but think of my wife Trisha. She personifies almost everyone of them. She doesn’t drink, smoke, is incredibly concientious, hard-working, has healthy habits, and is so active one would get dizzy following her on a daily basis. She is also extraordinarily extraverted and sleeps very soundly. She is 63, but I’m not sure anyone would ever guess her that old. I’d better start working out more because she is probably going to be around for a very long time. I hope so.

 

Until next time . . . . . . .

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The Spices of Life

This week’s blog, The Spices of Life, was inspired by Dr. Herbert Schub. In addition to his vast medical experience and expertise, he’s a close personal friend, frequent travel companion, and an international man of mystery. He is also one of the healthiest persons on the planet. 

Herb is a fitness fanatic and follows a strict nutritional program. When the occasional slice of pizza finds its way into that program, it is followed shortly thereafter by an extra hour on the eliptical machine. In addition to his healthy diet, Herb takes a number of supplements to make sure he’s getting sufficient vitamins and antioxidants. While this is not uncommon among many of us seniors, are you also getting the health benefits from selected herbs and spices? Herb does.

I want to stress I’m not a doctor, well not a medical one anyway, and anyone considering adding these items to their diet would be well advised to consult with their personal physician. While researchers are now looking more closely at this health phenomenon, current research now suggest these seven herbs and spices have valuable health benefits:

Rosemary – May help prevent damage to blood vessels and prevent heart attacks; it may also stop gene mutations which lead to cancer.

Garlic – May destroy cancer cells and/or disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells. After my father found out he had protate cancer, he began taking garlic each day. He lived nearly twenty more years and the cancer was not a factor.

Ginger – Seen as a remedy for motion sickness and a natural pain killer. Has also been shown to decrease swelling from arthritis and is a blood thinner.

Turmeric – Contains an ingredient called curcumin that can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Paprika – Contains capsaicin that has been shown to be an anti-inflammatory and is also an anti-oxidant that can lower the risk of cancer. (Capsaicin can also be found in cayenne and red chile peppers)

Cinnamon – Can lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes.

Oregano – The USDA reports that Oregano has the highest antioxidant activity of 27 fresh culinary herbs.

MEDIA ALERT: Possible cure for prostate cancer. Fox News reported today the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has announced preliminary findings that oregano, which contains the main component of carvacrol, “is an extremely potent anti-cancer agent – eliminating nearly all the prostate cancer cells it was tested against.”

 

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Senior-Care 2011

MetLife Mature Market Institute recently released the results of their annual survey. It reports the cost of senior care has once again gone up in 2011. Surprised? Of course not. The way this economy has been mishandled by virtually every player is quite obvious.  

As seniors, we appear to be on a collision course with such high costs for care, it puts into jeopardy our future financial security as well as that of our loved ones. For example, the average private nursing home room currently costs $229 a day. That totals $87,235 a year, up 4.4 per cent. The average assisted living cost is $3,477 a month. That totals $41,724 a year, up 5.6 per cent. Even adult day-care currently costs an average of $79 a day, up 4.5 per cent.

If you are looking for a bargain in senior-care, you might consider rural Louisiana. The cost of  living in a nursing home there is a mere $141 per day. If you have money to burn on your senior-care, head to Alaska. The cost of living in a nursing home there is currently $655 per day. I’m sure that includes all the salmon you can eat.

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Lack of Sleep Can Kill You

In talking with several friends and relatives recently, I’m surprised by how many of them have problems getting a good nights sleep. Obviously, this has a negative impact on their energy levels, but it may also become a serious factor in their overall health.

While writing our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired LIfe, my wife Trisha and I were shocked by the information we discovered concerning the relationship between sleep and health. Interestingly, The National Institute on Aging found that many older adults wrongly consider poor sleep to be a normal part of aging. It is not. In fact, as seniors we need from 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night, just like a young child.

The NIA also found that 36% of women and 13% of men over the age of 65 take thirty minutes or more to fall asleep. Numerous studies on this topic have concluded that seniors who fail to get enough sleep have been found more likely to suffer depression, attention and memory problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, more nighttime falls. and use more over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids. Simply stated, seniors who do not get sufficient sleep have a poorer quality of life.

Just this week the results of Norwegian sleep study that followed nearly 53,000 participants over 11.4 years was reported. It concluded that persons who struggle nightly with sleep are 45% more likely to suffer an acute heart attack, and those who have difficulty staying asleep had an elevated risk of 30%. The risk was correlated with the severity of the sleep deprivation. I should also mention it has long been demonstrated that poor sleep is associated with an elevated risk of stroke.

So, what do we seniors need to do? Obviously, if you have a serious problem sleeping, consult a physician. Snoring, Sleep Apnea, and Movement Disorders are very real physical problems that need to be addressed. Often it turns out, we’ve just gotten into too many bad habits over the years. Examples are falling asleep in front of the television, leaving the radio on, having too much light and other distractions near our bedrooms, etc. Some feel a good old glass or two of wine will do the trick. Turns out alcohol may help you fall asleep, but will actually prevent you from a the full and restful night’s sleep you require. The best advice is to turn off the news, eliminate distractions, and try to put the stress of the day behind you. Put together and follow a relaxing nightly routine to help you wind down and sleep peacefully. Sweet dreams.

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