AGEING: Living to 85 and beyond

Humans can live to well past 100 but it takes a few crucial things to get that far: genes, attitude and resilience. A writer for QUORA, a highly respected Internet information site, Gary Foster, writes a reply to the posed question, “How can one live to 85?” 

Statistics suggest the person asking this question is not very optimistic in setting such a low goal. Aim higher, work toward that goal with care about diet, exercise and physical well-being. Couch potatoes die at younger ages, exercisers who eat properly live longer, dog owners who care about nutrition likely live longest.

How can one live 85 years without any ailments?
By Gary Foster, QUORA

It’s not likely you will. It’s really more of being able to live with them. Resilience is one of the characteristics found in those who live longer lives.

Foster’s situation
I’m 78 with the goal of living past 100. I already have “ailments”, some of which I’ve had for years. Both knees ache from 20 years of pickup basketball and two “clean up” surgeries; I have an arthritic left-thumb that hinders my love of guitar playing; a CT scan revealed I have significant cardiovascular disease; I have an under-active thyroid that I’ve medicated for 30+ years that make weight control difficult and causes tiredness; I have atrial flutter (which is a first-cousin to atrial fib) which I take a blood thinner for. And my feet hurt about 24 1/2 hours a day.

COVID isolation
Having said all that, I stay firm in my conviction that I can live well beyond the average lifespan for men which is 78.9 in America. If I don’t, I will have checked out around Christmas time this year. I don’t have symptoms of anything that would say that is going to happen – and I’m remaining highly sequestered to avoid any risk of COVID infection.

The right attitude
Here’s the point. So much of how long we live and how we live long is between the temples. You won’t avoid ailments because chances are if you are an American, that your lifestyle preceding your later years was – shall I say – less than stellar. You most likely ate badly because you are beholden, out of naivete, to the deplorable Standard American Diet (SAD). And, you are likely on the bell curve of those who exercised far too little.

It’s really pretty simple. As a culture, we don’t really know jack about how our bodies and minds work and how to treat them optimally. And then we whine when we hit 60+ and some of our parts are acting like they are ready to be sent back to the universe.

Life’s like a golf game
I love the golf analogy. Nearly all of us have played a pretty crappy “front nine” with our lifestyles of comfort, convenience, and conformity and find ourselves either remorsing through a dismal back-nine or trying to make up for or reverse it on the final nine holes.

I’m the poster-child for that. I smoked until age 37 and ate badly through my first 60 years. Although I have been a gym rat and avid exerciser for over 40 years, the CT scan at age 73 revealed the truth of how those first five decades+ had slowly, insidiously taken their toll.

Exercise is mandatory
So, resilience is part of the backbone of my existence as I march on this “pollyannish mission” to 100+. I work out aggressively – both aerobic and weight lifting – six days a week. It’s painful at every session but I’ve learned to tolerate the pain in favor of the results. I’ve also moved my diet more to a W-F-P-B (whole-food-plant-based) program and away from the SAD C-R-A-P (calorie-rich-and-processed) diet that we Americans are captive to.

Live for today, still focussing on a tomorrow
I choose to do the things that I know will maximize my chance of hitting my goal while having no illusions that I could be out of here by the end of the day. I’ve learned that all I have is today and have, with difficulty, learned the value of avoiding time travel into the future or the past.

It’s really all about ATTITUDE (see this article) and RESILIENCE as we age. Do some research on the lives of centenarians and you will find that nearly all of them have two consistent characteristics: (1) they have endured and survived numerous health and mental challenges with their resilience and (2) they have kept a sense of purpose and meaning in their lives, with the majority of them avoiding leisure-based retirement and staying engaged in some form of work.

Getting to 85
So, if 85 is your goal (I suggest raising the bar – the human body can last to 112 years, 164 days), be prepared for ailments but adopt a “second half” lifestyle that will help you keep those to a minimum or give you more physical and mental strengths to live with them.

Genes determine a lot but paying attention to diet, exercising and doing some kind of work daily, will likely add years to your life. After all, the body is a machine and any machine needs maintenance and care if you want to get a long life out of it.

 

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