Socializing


How Long Will We Live?

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How long will we live? Having made it this far into retired life, it’s probably something most of us have pondered if not discussed out loud. It’s obviously a question without any possible guaranteed answer.

In the U. S., according to a recent survey, life expectancy for all genders and races averages 81.48 years for those living in Hawaii to 75 years for those living in Mississippi. Asians typically live the longest followed by Hispanics, Caucasians, and African-Americans. But are there any factors that would help increase the chances of living even longer?

On this week’s 60 Minutes, there was an interesting segment that featured researchers who have been investigating the mystery of human longevity. Having done considerable research and writing frequently on this topic myself, I thought I would share their major findings.

First, let me tell you their study used the files taken from residents of the former Leisure World retired-living complex near San Diego, California. It also has followed up with approximately one thousand of these folks who are still living, many into their 90’s.

Here are some of the conclusions from this major ongoing study:

  1. Not surprisingly, only non-smokers have lived into their 90’s.
  2. All of those in their 90’s have exercised regularly throughout their retired life. An even more interesting finding here is that those who have lived the longest get about 45 minutes of exercise per day. More time exercising, or more strenuous exercise does not seem to be factor. Even breaking up the exercise time and activity, as long as it totals 45 minutes each day seems to work.
  3. Social activity such as clubs, game playing, or simple socialization with friends appears to be a significant factor for longevity according to this study.
  4. Surprisingly, taking vitamins has not been shown to be a factor in this study.
  5. Alcohol, in moderation (two drinks per day), has been shown to be a positive factor in longevity. The type of alcohol does not appear to matter, not even red wine over white wine.
  6. Caffeine intake, equivalent to two cups of coffee per day, has been shown to be a positive factor in longevity. The intake of more, or less, is not a positive factor.
  7. High blood pressure in older adults appears to be a positive factor. Obviously, this is not the case when a person is younger, but for older adults, it appears to be a positive.
  8. While obesity is a negative for all younger adults, maintaining one’s weight as an older person, or even gaining some additional weight has been shown to be a positive factor to one’s longevity. In this case, old and skinny is not good.
  9. While not directly addressed by the researchers on the program, some of those 90+ folks interviewed in the story contended that continuing to have sexual relations into old age was a “definite” factor. I guess we can now safely drink to that. Twice!

I want to wish all of you mothers a wonderful healthy and happy Mother’s Day!

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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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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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The Best Christmas Present

Each year my wife Trisha and I invite friends and family to our home for a holiday party. The party serves many functions. First, our home gets a great “deep cleaning.” Secondly, we actually have lots fun and laughs while we try to figure out what goes where and which lights aren’t working this year. We enjoy planning and using both old and new decorations we have purchased over the many years we’ve been married. We plan our decorating together and I’m responsible for getting most of the decorations and lights in the right places while she prepares all the snacks, dinner, and deserts. It’s a pretty big task, but we love doing it and the rewards are many.

This year was very special. One of our friends who lives out-of-state had been critically ill for some time and not expected to survive. Not only did he survive months in the hospital, he now works out each day with his wife and looks great. They both flew in for the weekend and everyone at the party enjoyed catching up with these wonderful folks. In attendance were old friends, new friends, moms and dads who used to come as teenagers, children who are growing up, and new little ones. We shared lots of laughs, some heartfelt conversations, but mostly enjoyed the company of people we love.

On Sunday, we had breakfast for those who stayed over and those who had spent the night in local hotels. The girls did most of the cleanup, while my buddy and I settled in for a well-deserved afternoon of watching football. Well, thanks to Tim Tebow, we shared one of the best games we could have imagined. Great fun.

All of our friends have now gone home and we look forward to a wonderful family Christmas. Having our friend’s health restored, seeing he and his wife so happy again, sharing a great visit, and spending a wonderful evening with family and friends has already given us our best present.

As retired folks, socializing is an important factor in the aging process. People who live in isolation tend to have higher rates of depression and live much less healthy lives. As we get older, its important we maintain our contact with friends and family, stay active and socialize. Understandably, for some it’s physically more challenging, but it is necessary. Once we stop socializing, we really stop living.

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