More On Lessons About Longevity From My Parents

I recently wrote an article about finally learning my parent’s lesson, their lesson of a long life — of longevity. Longevity is a matching of lifespan and healthspan. But you and I both know that people can live a long time without having good health or good life in the sense of attitude and heart.

Age is a mindset. It’s the attitude you have about your life and the world around you. There are so many ways that you can engage in life, and that’s part of the key right there, engagement. It’s how you nurture your heart with friends and family, how you nurture your brain with learning and stretching your horizons.

I walked the Camino de Santiago several years ago and was enthralled with one of the pilgrims who was walking in my cluster — my Camino family, I call them. Eighty years old, this was his second or third time for walking the Camino, and I suspect not his last. Oh, he walked it a little slower than the 20 somethings did. But he was walking it every day and, for the most part, keeping up with me. It wasn’t a race, it was just an observation.

And two years ago, I heard about a woman at the age of 93 who walked the Camino. Talk about a young woman! She had a smile on her face at all times, and always something warm and pleasant to say. And I think that’s part of a good life — having a positive attitude. She was a frail woman with bad osteoporosis, and her daughter was concerned that she was doing it, but the Camino provided. But this isn’t a talk about the Camino.

It’s a talk about longevity, about how you live a good life. When Gladys would approach a town, people would see her coming, or the word would get to them, and they would pour out of the cafes and bars to greet her. (Along the Camino bars are where we ate food more often than we drink liquor. But that those were some of the places we would commune.) And they would pour out, and they would embrace her and bring her in to hear her stories and share their stories. (I never got to meet her. She’s over in Boulder, so I should strive to do that sometime.) But, she didn’t let her osteoporosis stop her from loving life and walking this 500 miles essentially on her own, although you’re never alone when you’re on the Camino. But the lesson my parents taught me was to stay active, and engaged in community, dance lessons, etc., and I share this in my article, so I won’t repeat that here. But, it’s the engagement.

But the one thing that they missed, that I think would have made a difference in their lives, was that they didn’t stay emotionally engaged with each other, or with themselves, and I think that’s really critical. Emotions have a message for you, so you need to listen to them. You need to process the emotions, especially the uncomfortable ones. The uncomfortable emotions have a message for you. You need to process it for the sake of your physical health, your mental health, emotional health, probably your spiritual health as well. It’s that engagement, and connection, and emotional intelligence that helps you live a good life.

We’re going to live longer than we have historically. Science and medicine are helping with that, and we have access to better foods and better medical care. And when we take advantage of both of those things and process our emotions, there’s nothing that says that we necessarily can’t live into our late 90s, into our hundreds. Yes, there can be some genetic issues, and that’s the loaded gun. But your lifestyle, your attitude, your emotions — that is what pulls the trigger to a shortened life span.

So, I’m all about processing the emotions, adjusting that attitude so that it’s youthful. When I was 30, I met a woman who was born in England a day after my birthday, but we decided with time changes, we must be twins. But we weren’t really, because I kept a youthful attitude, and at 30 she started talking about being old. “I’m too old for this,” and “I’m too old for that.” She was popular and had a great community, but it was interesting to hear her talk about how old she was. You’re as old as you feel. You’re as old as you decide to be. I am 16. Actually, I decided I have to be 18, so my husband’s not a lawbreaker. <grin>

Embrace life. Process your emotions — especially the difficult ones — and keep a positive, youthful attitude. And take care of your physical health with eating whole foods, and getting your checkups, visiting your doctor. Your age is your mindset. Live a young life for a really long time.

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