A New Wake on The Golden Years

Zhi Han Chew By Zhi Han Chew, 7th Jul 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Elderly Relatives

This article shows you what is better to concern when you are old.

The Time of Your Life

In many ways, Benny Wasserman was like many sixty-year-old men. He lived with his wife, Fern, in Los Angeles, California. He had raised three boys (a doctor and two lawyers), retired from a successful career in business, and was now enjoying his “golden years”. There were grandchildren to play with. Fern was volunteering at the local library and hospital, and they both had many books to read. Then one day one of his son’s coworkers observed that Wasserman looked a lot like Albert Einstein. This being Los Angeles, he suggested that Wasserman have some professional photos taken to send to a talent agent. One thing led to another, and today Wasserman has a second career as an actor.

With his flyaway white hair, Wasserman always plays the same character, Albert Einstein, who also happens to be one of his heroes. These days, Wasserman flies around the world appearing in television commercials in countries from Spain to South Korea. In Hollywood, he often plays the inspirational Einstein in children’s movies. He has his own agent, and even his grandchildren think he’s cool.

Although it was unexpected, Wasserman’s experience is not that unusual. Old age is just not what it used to be. Many healthy older people are discovering a new stage of life that did not exist a hundred years ago, when the average lifespan was between forty and fifty years. Today people can expect to live nearly twice that long, and for some the possibility of living to 100 is not as unlikely as it used to be. In fact, the number of centenarians is expected to double in the next fifteen years.

So, one might ask, what should people do to make sure they’ll be around and healthy for nine or ten decades? And a second perhaps equally important question might be what people will do with those extra years. According to Dan Buettner, the author of Blue Zones, a book about the areas of the world where people are most likely to live long and healthy lives, there are four factors that seen to contribute to the likelihood that someone will celebrate a triple-digit birthday.

The first two are physical: a healthy diet and regular exercise. People who garden, for example, increase their chances of living longer. For one thing, they are out in the sunshine getting plenty of vitamin D, which is good for their bones. And if they are growing fresh vegetables, it is likely that they are eating them, too, and fresh vegetables are full of life-preserving antioxidants and vitamins. According to Buettner, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables squashes, and beans are all part of the longevity diet. Another benefit to cultivating food at home is that home gardeners get regular, yet not overly strenuous, exercise. There is a lot of scientific evidence to support the importance of regular, non-strenuous activity for maintaining body strength and flexibility as one ages.

The third and fourth factors are associated with the psyche. One important psychological factor is having strong personal relationships. The research is clear. People who are lucky enough to live among ta community of close friends and family simply live longer. A great-grandfather who still lives with his family, jokes with his great-grandchildren, and carves the turkey at Thanksgiving enjoys better mental health than a man of the same age living along or in a rest home among strangers. In Sardinia, Italy, a small town of 1,700 people where five of the world’s forty oldest people live and 135 people per million live to see their 100th birthday, it is not uncommon for a ninety-year-old man to chop wood in the morning, eat lunch with his family in the afternoon, and then visit with friends at a café in the evening.

The fourth factor that contributes to a long life is having a strong sense of purpose. For some, that sense of purpose might be helping with the grandchildren; for others, like Fern Wasserman, it might also include volunteer work at a hospital. When people know that someone is counting on them, they have a reason to get up in the morning. They repost having energy all day and doing their work with ease, whereas those without a similar sense of purpose say they feel drained at the end of a busy day.

In sum, it seems that the lifestyle that leads to a long life is one that is full of pleasurable and meaningful activities. People who can anticipate two or three bonus decades, free from the stresses of raising children and paying the bills, will find themselves with the time to pursue activities that feed the soul. Whether continuing to make breakthroughs in nuclear physics or just playing the role of a nuclear physicist on television, older people are already changing the rules of aging.

Benny and Fern Wasserman are just one example of this trend. They jump out of bed each morning looking forward to a day full of meaningful activities. Fern continues to volunteer, while Benny had taken up writing. In fact, in addition to having a busy acting career, he published his first book at age seventy-three. In his spare time, he plays basketball and ping pong, and he has recently begun learning how to play the guitar. Who knows? It might be time for Benny to leave Einstein behind and try for a role as a superhero!


Elder Living, Old

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