Posted on May 23, 2018 in Successful Aging
Humans are not alone in facing death. When the reaper calls, everything’s got to go. However, we may be the only species on earth that spends an inordinate amount of time agonizing over this inevitable fact. The average lifespan for us worriers is roughly 71.4 years, with the world record for longest life going to Jeanne Calment, who died at the age of 122 in 1997. We’ve made decent progress into extending that lifespan, but it still hasn’t changed our cultures sour overall disposition towards the end.
Secrets To A Longer Life You Should Know
A Yale University study published this year found that out of a group of 4,765 seniors with an average age of 72, those who carried a gene variant linked to dementia – but whom also had a positive outlook on aging – were 50% less likely to develop the dementia disorder than people who carried the gene but were more pessimistic or fearful about death. What does this mean? Maybe the old adage about “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” carries more truth than we currently attribute. Being relaxed and unworried about the end is one way to avoid stressing over something we can’t help or change.
Another study, published in 2017 by the journal Personal Relationships, looked at more than 270,000 people in nearly 100 countries across the racial and cultural spectrum. The aim of the study was to find whether it was family or friends that mattered the most. The results? Having both family and friends was associated across with higher levels of happiness and better overall health. However, as people grew older, it was the strong friendships that provided the most positive effects on physical and mental health.
In a study published by the American Aging Association, researchers analyzed data from the Georgia Centenarian Study, a survey of 285 people who were at least (or nearly) 100 years old, as well as 273 family members and other proxies who provided information about them. The investigators were looking at how the subjects scored on various personality traits, including conscientiousness, extroversion, hostility and neuroticism.
A study put forth by the American Aging Association compiled a survey of 285 people who were at least 100 years old, along with 273 of their close family members and friends. The study examined personality traits such as hostility and neuroticism, but also conscientiousness and extroversion. Overall, the group tested lower than average for neuroticism, and higher on competence and extroversion. Researchers were tentative, but drew a correlative line between moral righteousness, robust temperament, and extroversion to longer life.
Another study published in 2016 found that seniors who exercised for only 15 minutes per day, at a low intensity such as a moderate walker, had a 22% lower risk of early death compared to sedentary elderly people. In 2017, a similar study found that exercising for just a couple days a week could lower risk for premature death. Fro seniors, even just breaking a sweat for 60 seconds a day could be enough to significantly improve health and fitness.
If you don’t think it’s possible, think again. For example, Ginette Bedard, age 85, finished first place in the New York City Marathon in 2017. Her routine? Starting at age 69, she began running daily and gradually built up her cardiovascular and leg strength until she was able to run for 3 hours every day. Says Dr. Thomas Gill, director of the Yale Program on Aging: “Exercise likely works through several mechanisms. Increasing physical activity will improve endurance; it benefits muscle strength and balance and [reduces] occurrence of serious fall injuries. It also provides a benefit to psychology, by lifting spirits.”
An ongoing study of centenarians (those 100 years or older) by Iowa State University, is looking at the role of a healthy diet in the longevity of senior life. Despite all the warnings about refraining from junk food entirely, the study has found that moderation is really the key, not complete abstinence. Peter Martin, professor of human development ISU, says that the one consistent thing among centenarians is their consistency with breakfast. “They rarely skip breakfast,” he says. “It’s often at a very specific time, and the routine is important.”
A study published in 2017 by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that light to moderate alcohol use was actually associated with lower risk of death compared to people who don’t drink at all. This falls under 1-2 drinks per day per week for men and 0-1 drinks per day per week for women. Of the 333,000 people in the study, the low to moderate drinks were 20% less likely to die from any cause compared to their abstemious peers.
Since we’re advocating for seniors to relax, spend time with friends, and have a drink or two, we may as well add that sex isn’t a bad idea either. One of the most well known studies linking sex to longevity was published in the British Medical Journal in 1997, which followed 900 men in a Welsh town for ten years and found that those who experienced a higher frequency of orgasm had a 50% less risk of mortality. A more recent study in 2016 from MSU found that in older men, more sex was linked to greater risk for a cardiovascular event, while for women it seemed to be strengthen cardiovascular health. The problem for men was likely over exertion, meaning it’s better to focus on intimacy than simply trying to orgasm.
In summary, some promising, non-traditional ways to extend the length of your life are: worry less, spend quality time with family and friends, find something you’re passionate about, find a physical activity that you can be invested in, eat healthy by eating everything in moderation, enjoy the occasional beer with friends, and have sex, but don’t over exert yourself. These tips are great for people of all ages, and for seniors they could help extend the quality and length of their remaining years.
At Landmark Senior Living, we have Boston assisted living along with multiple other locations offering senior housing options at an affordable rate. Our facilities offer plenty of chances for seniors to meet, socialize, and engage in fun activities that help them keep active and engaged with the community.