New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - April 27, 1997, New Braunfels, Texas
The National Institute on Aging recently submitted information showing that persons reaching 80 years of age today are healthier than those persons hitting the same age 20 or more years ago. Traditionally, earlier studies of very old people have been women, because comparatively few men lived to be what is thought of as really old age; but research is showing that as the overall population of the very old increases, so will the number of men.
In one study, it was shown that one 95-year-old man is traveling around the world with a lady friend, and that another in his late 90s drives himself to the gym to swim several times a week.
Researchers still haven’t pinpointed the main reason that men and women are living longer. Depending on the individual, the relationship of genetics and lifestyle play out differently. While there are definite, recognized health risk factors such as smoking, that doesn’t mean that everyone who doesn’t smoke will live a long life or that someone who does will die young.
In another study on centenarians by the National Institute of Aging, it was shown that having a family pattern of longevity isn’t the main key to long life. And diet isn’t the only factor, either. It is suggested that a low-calorie diet promotes longevity, but findings are just the opposite in the patterns of many centenarians. They tend to eat more vegetables than the average person and have higher levels of Vitamin A, but the majority of 80 years and older subjects enjoy a wide variety of foods — the same they ate all of their lives — and many also drink alcohol.
I’m reminded of Winston Churchill who ate what he wanted, drank brandy every night and smoked cigars all his life, and he lived to be 92. In fact, he attributed his longevity to his brandy drinking. And, then, there’s George Bums, who always had a cigar in hand, and he lived to be IOO. Positive attitude was definitely Bums’ strong suit. I recall that when he was 98, he remarked that he would keep right
on working because now he had to save for his old age.
Several men in the studies who were in their 90s said diet worries were something other people have. They were too busy
enjoying themselves. Some swear by the habit of having a drink every night. And while none were significantly overweight, only one made a conscious effort to eat a low-fat diet.
Another, who was a former chef, refuses to eat anything low-cal or low-fat. For breakfast, he prefers eggs, toast and cream cheese or cereal with half-and-half milk. He prefaces supper with a shot of whiskey and often ends it with a dish of ice cream. Another, age 92, considers himself a gourmet who also likes to snack in the middle of the night on Hershey bars, chips and peanut butter. A 93-year-old former hotel bell captain eats a lot of vegetables, but also fatty macaroni
and cheese and his special sweet potato pie. He also likes steak, smokes cigars and enjoys a drink before dinner each night.
I'm also reminded of Julia Child, who must be pushing 90 by now, and I think about all the years that she spent cooking with butter and cream and rich sauces. It has only been in the last few years of her life that she cut down on some of these rich foods. And she truly is a robust and energetic character. Julia says she eats what she wants, but she eats moderate amounts. That does seem to be the key. I love her quote in December 1996 Modem Maturity:
“ ... our new series that started this past October is all about baking. Land O’ Lakes was a sponsor — there were 39 shows, and we used something like 753 pounds of butter and we had a lot of retakes ... This is good food. We didn’t pay any attention to diets.” She also said, “When you hold the wine glass by its stem to toast, it makes a lovely sound. My husband called it les carillons de I 'amitie — the bells of friendship — which is rather nice.” I’m not advocating that everyone go out and start smoking cigars and drinking brandy and eating rich,
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fatty foods, but it is interesting to note that most of the older people interviewed in these studies have always and continue to indulge in some of the pleasantries of life — unless of course, you do not consider those things pleasantries.
What was most interesting was that the robust, older people appear to have similar life patterns of beliefs and attitudes.
It seems that a positive attitude and lots of social connections and a good sense of humor prevail throughout the lives of these people. Spirituality also seems to be an important aspect in the lives of older citizens. It would seem that reduction of life stress, positive attitudes, sociability and the ability to laugh at oneself remain the major components of a long life.
We, at the Comal County Senior Citizens Center, strive to provide the opportunity for our county’s seniors to socialize, to enter into meaningful support groups, to enjoy nutritious meals, and to partake in an abundance of opportunities to volunteer and feel needed. Also, we provide the facilities for the elderly
to exercise on a regular basis and to have physical therapy when needed. These are all the important elements of sustaining a good, long life.
Now, if we can all survive the aliments of the aging, and reduce stress, etc., then all we have to worry about is elder abuse and becoming victims of senior scams and fraud.
Tune in next week and you’ll see
how Comal County is going to fight that aspect of growing old — and then, perhaps, we can all grow older with a sense of security and the opportunity to enjoy all that we have worked so hard to achieve in this lifetime.
(Marie Dawson writes a weekly column for the Herald-Zeitung on matters of interest to senior citizens.)
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V Will worh to help prevent vandalism in neighborhoods and crimes against senior citizens
V WIN help preserve our heritage end smell town atmosphere
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