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Want to live longer? Advice from my college guy studying the subject


creekland
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Just thought some of y'all might be interested in what my youngest just sent me.  He's currently studying successful longevity (living oodles of years with a good quality of life) in a specialty college class.

 

Obviously, some of it is directly pertaining to our situation (pineapples, ponies, neighbors wanting to play games with us when they found out we often do family games, church things), but the overall ideas can pertain to anyone.

 

YMMV though discussion is definitely welcome.

 

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The new class is very very interesting and there are many things which are life applicable, and even many that I'd love to apply this spring and summer!
...
As for reminders:
Change the water on the pineapples,
See about getting the neighbors over for games,
And get up.
 
The latter two pertain to my preliminary findings after reading up on many aspects of Blue Zone areas and what makes them key, as well as interviewing successfully aging senior citizens down here.  Managing to be physically apt, as well as HEALTHY into your older age boils down to a few common factors. 

Being active is perhaps the best thing.  Doesn't matter what you're doing, as long as you're actually up and doing something.  So tend to the pineapples, walk around outside and admire stuff, go out and visit the ponies, walk down the street, clean up the dining table, JUST DO SOMETHING other than sitting in a recliner.  People of the blue zones (so named because they were places on a map circled in blue highlighter by the original researchers) wake up on their own pace, and go out walking, working, and being active and productive.  Then they quit when they feel like it and move on to another productive thing, they don't worry about finishing huge projects, they're just generally productive.  Then they go in and take a nap (they all seem to take naps very frequently).  Then towards the evening, they don't go in and sit on their couch (or chair), rather they spend time playing games and relaxing with family and friends (a tough one to do in American society).  
 
Which leads us to social life.  ALL successful people who age have a strong sense of community/less stressful life.  A lot of this boils down to both emotional support, habit support (they keep you active), and conversation interaction.  So go to more Church events, visit the neighbors and invite them over or walk around until you see some to talk with them, just interact.  
 
Things seem to boil down to those two, and a good diet of vegetables and nuts and fruits (also lots of potatoes so long as you don't add tons of stuff and they're not fried) only make all of this better.  But without the first two, eating healthy won't do you much good, as eating healthy is like getting the parts you need for a machine, and being active and socializing is actually what starts the machine running to use those things.
 

Hope you take in some of this, and hope all is going well up there!!!

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It seems like modern American society is in many ways at a huge disadvantage healthwise because of the lack of community in many (most?) places. People move frequently because of job changes, families are spread out because of the economy, etc.

 

I agree.  Our game playing has been totally family related since ever since we graduated from college and now that we're empty nesting, games are only when family returns or visits.  We all love it.

 

But now we have new fun-loving neighbors... and they've expressed an interest in playing games and learning Rook (one of our personal favorites).  I suspect we'll check with them this weekend to set a date.  ;)

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I learned the same thing from reading the book "Younger Next Year". I really loved that book. It might be the only 'self help' or diet and exercise book I have ever read that seemed sensible and made any real impact on how I live.

 

Would you mind elaborating?

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So as a 49yo mom who works at home, taking the kids to after-school activities most days is probably a good thing, right?  ;)

 

I should do more though.  Sitting on the internet takes a toll for sure.

 

I was on my feet at school all day, though on here too as I was overseeing state testing rather than teaching (overseeing the teachers/rooms, not the students actually testing).

 

Today there were some unusual "fires" I got to deal with (my specialty - why I'm a regular with the job twice a year).  Mentally it was quite rewarding and physically there was some action.

 

But now?  I'm sitting in my recliner, online, and listening to the news on TV...

 

I suppose I ought to go change the water in the pineapples (two new plants we've started).   :coolgleamA:

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So as a 49yo mom who works at home, taking the kids to after-school activities most days is probably a good thing, right?  ;)

 

I should do more though.  Sitting on the internet takes a toll for sure.

 

My impression is that mental activity is as important as physical (which is why playing a board game is counted even though its sedentary)

 

So us work from home mums might be alright! lol. As long as our work is mentally engaging, which mine isn't. Oops. 

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My grandma is 100. I can't tell you the last time I saw her drink anything besides water. She has a routine. She tries to be social (she talks to people at church, exchanges cards, talks on the phone). She keeps her mind active. I don't know if she has done these things in more recent years, but she used to always do crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles. She also used to keep score on paper while she watched baseball lol.

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I think the potatoes stimulate serotonin production, which helps for restful sleep and a sense of well being.

 

Where does reading fit in? That's mentally engaging. Do I have to do it on the treadmill?!!

 

Good thought on potatoes.

 

He never mentioned anything about a treadmill or a gym - just getting up, out, and doing things.  That is pretty common in our lives actually, but even so, there are times (like now) when I could be doing it more.  I just prefer resting after having been up for a bit during the day, so I suppose this is my "nap" except for the actual sleeping part.  If I sleep now, I won't be able to sleep in a couple of hours and I'll be up around 4:30am (naturally - no alarm clock) so want to get some continuous hours in.

 

Tomorrow I'll be up late even though we need to get up early to get middle son to the airport.  Since it's his last night here, we'll be playing games (and doing laundry).

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Would you mind elaborating?

 

well, it's a book about how to age well. It's written by a doctor and..well, and old guy, lol. They explain that in North America we are likely to live to our 80s, if not beyond, whether we plan to or not, but HOW we age is up to us. They describe the typical spending 20 years in gradual miserable decline or, spending those 20 years more functional and happy with a rather quick decline at the end.  I know which way I would like it to be.

 

They are very quick to separate out disease from general health. Some people have plain old bad luck.  I think of my dearly departed SIL who used to say that if it weren't for a small touch of cancer she was in excellent health. She had bad luck and nothing was able to change that.

 

They mostly focus on movement and social connection. They have a diet chapter, but it pretty much said that you already know how to eat and stop eating crap. 

 

But, mostly it was about the importance of movement and what it can do for our bodies to get regular 'low and slow' cardio every single day, regular weight lifting and the occasional challenge.  It had some specific suggestions that seemed impossible to me at first, but now seem pretty basic and common sense.

 

They also stress staying connected, keeping engaged with the world, even leaving relationships if they are dragging us down or not growing. I remember one quote from someone they interviewed, "You do have to age, you don't have to rot"

 

I also liked how they were pretty up front about a lot of physical changes. It was stuff like 'you're going to look older and even look old. Sorry, it can't be avoided. But you can feel good and you will learn that is what is important." 

 

It was a good book. It might be in your local library

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I agree with all of those things. Here's what makes me so sad, though: watching my MIL decline, though she did so many of the optimal things in the past. Into her 80's, she was still doing these things:

 

*singing in the choir at church (I used to sing with her for Christmas and Easter.)

*maintaining a sustantial vegetable garden

*playing piano, doing puzzles and word searches specifically to keep her brain active

*going for walks, alone or with the kids

*cooking and baking significantly

*always interacting with grandkids and her kids, whom she saw daily/almost daily

And much more.

 

But, when she got to about 84,85, things rapidly changed. The forgetting. The low energy. The begining of, I guess, feeling no need to get up, dress, make breakfast, move around, but instead beginning to sit/lay on the couch and watch way, way too much Fox News. ;) It was tough the first year she just blew right by planting season without being aware that her vegetables didn't get planted. She would muse, "Well, I usually have some tomatoes by now, but for some reason, I just didn't get around to planting them this year..."

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Good source of potassium. Diets high in potassium are associated with good blood pressure control and healthy kidneys.

 

I play cards with a group that includes several people in their late 80s up to mid 90s. They all eat well, no processed or deep fried food, same as they were raised on. Lots of greens. All social and community minded. They maintain their weight in the normal zone. All are very sharp mentally and physically busy; none exercise just for the sake of exercise. Most still have a vegetable garden, although several have children who help with garden chores.

Okay, I am fascinated...how did you get into a card group of people in this age cohort? What an interesting thing.

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Is this part of the Okinawa study? There was also a place in Italy I think where people reached 90+ in large numbers. Common thread was homegrown / healthy food and active social life with friends and family over a lot.

 

http://www.okicent.org/

 

Overall they are studying all blue zone areas and comparing them.  Specifically they will be traveling to Greece (tomorrow) to be immersed in the lifestyle of the blue zone found on the islands there.  I'd love to be tagging along with him!

 

I did e-mail youngest last night asking him about potatoes and he responded with a quote from the book mentioned above in Sparrow's post:

 

Potatoes have heart-healthy potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber."
"POTATOES:  Unique among Mediterranean peoples, Ikarians eat potatoes almost daily.  Despite high carbs, potatoes offer significant health benefits.  Recent studies have suggested that, as long as they're not fried or loaded up with sour cream and butter, potatoes can help reduce blood pressure, prevent inflammation, and fight diabetes."  -The Blue Zones Solution, Dan Buettner (pg 37, 39)
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It seems like modern American society is in many ways at a huge disadvantage healthwise because of the lack of community in many (most?) places. People move frequently because of job changes, families are spread out because of the economy, etc.

 

I agree with this, though I think there is a bit of a push-back on this among some people, maybe my age and younger?  I notice they seem more interested in organizing things like game nights, outings, even joining clubs. 

 

THere are two, I think now three places that are essentially get-together spots for gaming, not the computer kind.  One is more casual and bare-bones, the other is a really nice cafe/bar that has over 400 games you can use, and people to teach you how to play them.

 

I think this is also part of the reason people are moving to cities.

 

But the moving thing is an issue.  There have always been some career paths that by nature involve a lot of moving around, but the core of the community was pretty stable.  It makes a huge difference when people are so itinerant.

 

I'm not sure why people don't take it seriously - everyone is worried about things like the upsurge in depression, but mostly they don't talk about the fact that the best prevention, by far, seems to be a close-knit community.

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I agree with this, though I think there is a bit of a push-back on this among some people, maybe my age and younger?  I notice they seem more interested in organizing things like game nights, outings, even joining clubs. 

 

THere are two, I think now three places that are essentially get-together spots for gaming, not the computer kind.  One is more casual and bare-bones, the other is a really nice cafe/bar that has over 400 games you can use, and people to teach you how to play them.

 

I think this is also part of the reason people are moving to cities.

 

But the moving thing is an issue.  There have always been some career paths that by nature involve a lot of moving around, but the core of the community was pretty stable.  It makes a huge difference when people are so itinerant.

 

I'm not sure why people don't take it seriously - everyone is worried about things like the upsurge in depression, but mostly they don't talk about the fact that the best prevention, by far, seems to be a close-knit community.

 

Difficult to manage with kids though.  It's getting easier because my kids aren't so young anymore, but yeah hard to meet up with people regularly when you don't have affordable and trustworthy childcare. 

 

I really hate not having family around.   

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Yup, the lack of family makes a difference not just directly, but in other ways.  And I think when you feel more isolated in your community, you actually have to spend more time doing direct supervision  too, because there is no sense that others are looking out.

 

We really tend to isolate people by age.

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I'm reading "Being Mortal" right now--about 3/4 of the way through. It doesn't tell you how to live longer, but it does talk about what happens when we get sick and are going to die. It talks about whether medical interventions help or harm and it talks about what people really want out of life when they're old and how we often don't help them get it because we all (family, doctors) want to swoop in and fix everything. But when you're dying, you simply can't fix that, so there needs to be (and there is) a way to let people live out their last years/months/weeks as they wish and not in a medical hell.

 

I think it sort of goes along with this thread and would recommend it. This thread is about how to help yourself have a good life when you're older and I think "Being Mortal" tells you how to handle it when your body finally start shutting down. Because what most people want is a life free from pain, time with loved ones, and to have control over how they live.

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Yup, the lack of family makes a difference not just directly, but in other ways.  And I think when you feel more isolated in your community, you actually have to spend more time doing direct supervision  too, because there is no sense that others are looking out.

 

We really tend to isolate people by age.

 

Yeah and I don't know most of my neighbors.  It's so weird to me how unfriendly people are.

 

Although admittedly it's not like I go out of my way to get to know them either. 

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One of the things I like about where we live (once we left the city) is knowing all of our neighbors and being able to trust the vast majority of them with literally anything from kids to everything in our house/farm  (since we trade off watching each others places when we travel).

 

Getting together with some to play games on a fairly regular basis will be a nice bonus compared to just seeing them on our walks and catching up.

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The camaraderie I get with my job is one of the things I love about it too... another is when it forces me to be up and active if I get in a cranky mood.  Going to work almost always changes my mood if it was down in the dumps.  I have to be part time though as working full time really doesn't fit my "love my freedom" personality and takes up way too much time when coupled with other things I do.

 

I feel like all of it fits the idea of being active meandering around and with community.  So does our vacation/travel life.

 

We'll see where it leads.  So far it's definitely led to less stress, but there's still that luck factor with health things.

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Keep in mind 'high' means on the high side of a moderate intake, not double the daily rda. He is probably being told to reduce the K to ease the load on the malfunctioning kidneys.

 

People here are drinkers. Game night is playing darts, horseshoes, or bowling in between. Havent met any octoganarians who followed that path.

 

Yeah definitely to reduce the load.

 

What is surprising to me is how many foods have a lot of potassium.  I find it hard to believe that people have trouble getting enough.  Well, not unless they live on donuts or something.  Oddly he has to eat more junk because it's the healthy foods that are the problem.

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I think the best part of this thread is that it gives me permission to go back to viewing potatoes as a staple food.  :)

 

But I'm feeling the gloom and doom too - because while I come from a relatively big family, it is likely I will survive most of them and not have a lot of family interaction in my old age.  Maybe I can volunteer with kids, but that option seems to be going the way of the paper boy/girl.  People too afraid that every adult is a potential child abuser.  And what happens if I can't drive any more, with nothing in walking distance?

 

I have this vision of myself sitting in a small room with soft food, a microwave, a sink, a washer/dryer, and a computer all within arm's reach.  I would use the computer to order more soft food etc. for delivery to my doorstep.  :P

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Yeah and I don't know most of my neighbors.  It's so weird to me how unfriendly people are.

 

Although admittedly it's not like I go out of my way to get to know them either. 

 

Have you ever read any of Jane Jacob's work?  One of the things she said was that for neighbourhoods in cities to be friendly, people had to have neutral places they ran into their neighbours regularly.  So, places like the corner store or a café.  The idea being, that getting to know people takes repeated interactions, but most people are somewhat private about their personal space - usually you don't invite someone in until they already have a level of comfort with them.

 

Although she doesn't talk about rural areas, I think they had other ways of accomplishing the same things, and those also seem to be in decline.  In both cases, cars are a big part of the problem - if you don't walk, and don't do things locally, you don't meet the people who live near you.  And the way suburbs are built, without mixed use, makes it harder, because there is no real reason for people to be out walking around, often there are even no sidewalks.

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I have this vision of myself sitting in a small room with soft food, a microwave, a sink, a washer/dryer, and a computer all within arm's reach.  I would use the computer to order more soft food etc. for delivery to my doorstep.  :p

 

I have this vision of traveling from elder hostel to elder hostel seeing the world - assuming I don't just enjoy time with my guys.

 

My mom still travels (albeit in group trips when not with a friend or us).  I'll never outgrow my need to travel.  A small room isn't worth staying alive for unless one can escape it regularly!

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So, introverts are doomed then? I am staring at 50, am fairly active thanks to my two Boy Scouts, but have gotten more and more exhausted by extended human contact every year.  I see me and my husband wondering museums, trails, watching movies and practicing our music in our old age. Social outlets are visiting family and few friends. Basically, what we do now :)

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I would think that the truly old people wouldn't have too many people to do things with. Their friends might have died or games might be too hard for them to participate in. But maybe I am mistaken as someone mentioned a card group above. Lots of people, young and old, do not interact with their neighbors. They might not even see their neighbors. So do people need to make a concentrated effort to live in the right neighborhood?

 

My grandma regularly participated in her bowling league until she no longer could. She also was in a group of knitters that met regularly. I don't know exactly when these activities stopped but I think it was a combination of her physical condition and transportation. She was driving up until the past few years and now relies on a caregiver (they come a few times a week) to go anywhere. A younger neighbor occasionally drives her to church.

 

I consider myself mostly an introvert. I like some games now, but have no one to play with. And by the time I'm elderly I don't know if I'll want anything to do with them lol.

 

I hardly see or interact with my neighbors right now. I mean I might talk to the man walking his dog, but there's definitely no regular event happening. I'm also younger than most of my neighbors.

 

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So, introverts are doomed then? I am staring at 50, am fairly active thanks to my two Boy Scouts, but have gotten more and more exhausted by extended human contact every year.  I see me and my husband wondering museums, trails, watching movies and practicing our music in our old age. Social outlets are visiting family and few friends. Basically, what we do now :)

 

It would be an interesting question to ask.  I have no idea.  I rank in the 30s on the introvert/extrovert scale, so not extreme, but still introvert.  I don't care for crowds or parties, etc.  I do, however, enjoy close friend and family interaction.

 

From what my guy wrote, it doesn't seem like one needs to enjoy crowds or parties - just have a community of close friends or perhaps a larger close family.  It seems similar to gym exercise not being needed - just a more movement oriented life.

 

Our nuclear family has always been close knit.  My mom has been added in to that really close knit group.  No topic is off limits for conversation.

 

I have good neighbors, good friends at work, and assorted others.  We don't get together all the time (I am still an introvert), but the way our lives work out, there's always someone I can interact with if I want to, and esp at work (in my inner circle), no topic is off limits.

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Have you ever read any of Jane Jacob's work?  One of the things she said was that for neighbourhoods in cities to be friendly, people had to have neutral places they ran into their neighbours regularly.  So, places like the corner store or a café.  The idea being, that getting to know people takes repeated interactions, but most people are somewhat private about their personal space - usually you don't invite someone in until they already have a level of comfort with them.

 

Although she doesn't talk about rural areas, I think they had other ways of accomplishing the same things, and those also seem to be in decline.  In both cases, cars are a big part of the problem - if you don't walk, and don't do things locally, you don't meet the people who live near you.  And the way suburbs are built, without mixed use, makes it harder, because there is no real reason for people to be out walking around, often there are even no sidewalks.

 

This makes sense to me, based on my own experience.  The people in my neighbor who I know best are a handful that I regularly interact with while I'm out walking.  It's pretty much a few other dog owners who regularly walk their pooches, and a retired couple who tend to walk on the same schedule as I do.  We all got to know each other out in the "neutral" territory of the street.  :lol:

 

 

So, introverts are doomed then? I am staring at 50, am fairly active thanks to my two Boy Scouts, but have gotten more and more exhausted by extended human contact every year.  I see me and my husband wondering museums, trails, watching movies and practicing our music in our old age. Social outlets are visiting family and few friends. Basically, what we do now :)

 

I've wondered how stuff like this applies to introverts, too.  My guess is that the need for close relationships may not be quite as strong a factor for them as it would be for extroverts, but that's just a guess.

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I loved The Blue Zone. It's been a few years since I read it, but I do remember that one of the longest living groups that they studied were sheep herders who stayed in the mountains for days with their flock. So they weren't exactly getting lots of social interaction daily. But they did have strong ties at home and people they could count on. The Okinawan community was really interesting, too.

 

Younger Next Year was also excellent. I may need to re-read that one.

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This makes sense to me, based on my own experience.  The people in my neighbor who I know best are a handful that I regularly interact with while I'm out walking.  It's pretty much a few other dog owners who regularly walk their pooches, and a retired couple who tend to walk on the same schedule as I do.  We all got to know each other out in the "neutral" territory of the street.  :lol:

 

 

 

What has worked for me in our very impersonal city neighborhood is planting an apricot tree.  When the fruit is ripe I pick it and bring it to all the neighbors.  Now we kinda sorta all know each other.  We have sort of warmish feelings toward each other.  It's nice.  And it doesn't necessarily involve going into each others' houses.

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This is an interesting discussion. We moved in with my dmil (selling/buying a new house) in November. She is an active almost 80 yo widow. She does some things I think are great.

1. Since she was widowed about 7 years ago, she never turns down a social invitation. This a conscious rule. And her social circle really expanded. She is in two book clubs, three bridge groups, other service organizations, and takes about 6-8 short trips a year with friends. But she is generally an introvert and is not lonely being at home.

2. She has real problems with her feet, but she belongs to an athletic club and she goes nearly everyday to do something. She works with a personal trainer to improve balance and avoiding falls, takes a water aerobics class, uses the exercise bike and walks on the track (she doesn't walk outside in the winter). This is where she meets her younger friends.

3. She eats at the same time every day, 3 healthy meals, one snack, wine with dinner. Fruits, vegetables, baked potatoes, meat at every dinner. And naps every day.

 

It really has been great to be living here. We have been able to take the daily burden off (cooking, cleaning, helping with household things) and she likes having people here when she gets home to talk about her day. She is a wonderful person and I am so pleased to have her in our day to day life.

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I loved The Blue Zone. It's been a few years since I read it, but I do remember that one of the longest living groups that they studied were sheep herders who stayed in the mountains for days with their flock. So they weren't exactly getting lots of social interaction daily. But they did have strong ties at home and people they could count on. The Okinawan community was really interesting, too.

 

Younger Next Year was also excellent. I may need to re-read that one.

 

Never underestimate the social value in critters.  It doesn't matter what kind they are I don't think.  Interacting with animals kept me mentally strong during some very difficult times in my younger years.

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Introverts  need intimate relationships just as much as the next guy, and are just as good as anyone else at procuring them and nurturing them.

 

You can be introverted and anti-social at the same time, but anti-social is not the definition of introverted.

 

Saying that introverts are less good at relationships (or need them less) is like saying extroverts only sustain shallow social relationships, which is baldly false.

 

 

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