This week I heard a story about a woman who worked for twenty years at a business and was forced to retire at the age of sixty-five. She did everything but beg to stay longer because she said her job was what kept her going. Everyone dismissed this and told her she would be fine; but she died suddenly less than a month after leaving her job.
This got me thinking about what keeps a person going and I was reminded of another woman that I know who is ninety-two and still lives in her own condo and drives a car every day. This woman is diabetic and not in perfect health but she gets out of bed every morning and has a plan for the day. One morning it is coffee at the local donut shop, the next day she drives a group of her friends to the mall. She visits her grandchildren regularly and goes on bus excursions to the local casino at least once a month. Many people have tried to tell her to give up her car and move to a retirement home but she just tells them to buzz off. She walks all the time and can climb a flight of stairs as fast as a fifty year old – she doesn’t have time to grow old; she’s too busy!
I think we could all learn from this woman’s example. Perhaps the secret to longevity is simply to lead an active life; not just physically, but mentally and socially, and to have both long and short term goals. And by goals I mean an endless list of things to look forward to that are meaningful and fulfilling to you. In fact if you don’t already have a list like this, I think you should seriously consider making one and posting it on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror – some place that you can’t avoid seeing it as soon as you get up in the morning.
No one to go places with? Think of places you can go where you will be around other people who are also alone like the park or a church or the mall or an art gallery. Shy and not ready to go on your own? Get a dog – not only will you have someone to go out with; people always talk to people who have dogs. Dogs are also wonderful instigators because the live in the realm of “what are ‘we’ doing next” and they need to be taken out at least twice a day.
Not sure how to start? Get a calendar with big squares for the days of the month and write down an activity or outing for every day of the month. Be good to yourself – doing the laundry does not count as an activity unless you are someone who truly loves ironing! And while you are at it – think of at least one crazy place you have never been to and plan to make a trip there three months from now. Anything from Las Vegas to Kathmandu; the point is to give yourself something to really look forward to because the older you get the less it is about the “doing” and the more it is about the act of looking forward to it.