How to live a good long life

Since the death of Jeanne Louise Calment in August 1997, we've been hearing about more and more "super aged" people, who live well, some even better than those half their age. Most of them attribute it to living a simple life, but a good part of it has to do with the advance of technology. Less than a hundred years ago, people with something as treatable as the flu was basically handed a death sentence. My father's younger sister died at the age of 6 from it. Incredibly, that was in Italy in 1935.   

It's often said that the people in their 50's today are like the people in their 30's, just a few years ago. Maybe this saying started because the baby boomers - people born between 1945 and the early 1960's - have difficulty with the concept of aging. However, when you consider that 30 years ago, the average life span of humans was in their early 70's, and that today, that's considered young, then the baby boomers are right. They are and feel young - and they want to look young too. 

The idea that people in their 30's now may live to over 120 is conceivable. With today's technology, it should be usual and common. It's happening to a generation that normally would not have lived past the age of 50. Jeanne Louise Calment and a list of 732 age-validated cases of people who lived between 110 and 116 years, some still alive, are proof. Just  imagine what can happen with today's generation. They can live longer than anyone before them. 

Stress Kills

However, there's a catch. You can't be TOO stressed out, or you won't live long.  Stress kills. No kidding.

Nonetheless, most of us are so full of stress that it's not unusual to hear about relatively young people, in their 30's, 40's, and 50's to just drop dead, on the spot. No warning. No reason. Or so they say. 

The stress level in people is a reflection of the stress level in society. There have never been so many depressed people in the world at the same time as there are presently. There is a staggering amount of people, more than ever before, on prescription drugs for depression.

We became the Prozac Society.

Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, Remeron, Lithium, Elavil, and so many other drugs like them are in almost every household. And of course, Depression doesn't come alone. It's usually accompanied by at least one other bully. Some of them are: anxiety, compulsions, phobias, schizophrenia, memory loss, disorientation, palpitation of the heart, pain, fatigue, and a host of others. For this, we have Valium, Lectopam, Rivatril, Zyprexa, Epival, Ativan, Inderal, Vicodin, etc. 

That, of course if only a part of it. They're "legal" drugs, so you don't feel like a criminal, because they're prescribed by a doctor. 

Then, there are street drugs or "illegal" drugs users, and those who use alcohol. If you put it all together, there aren't many people who go into the world totally sober. One way or another, an unprecedented amount of us escape into something mind altering at some point. What's going on? 

We have got to lighten up. We take ourselves much too seriously, no wonder we're so stressed out and depressed. 

This can't be any good for our health. If we want to live a long and happy life, there are certain requirements.

We noticed that many of the super aged people have a beautifully cultivated sense of humor in common. It seems that laughter is indeed the best medicine. 

Although many people live longer because of medical breakthroughs and better access to information and medicine, the secret to a long life seems to be simple:

Be content, count your blessings, and don't take yourself too seriously. Do things that promote well-being, and avoid those that are destructive. Have passion for life in all its forms, and enjoy!

Getting older is not a crime, it's a privilege!

Everybody wants to look young. It's only natural as we begin to see physical changes in ourselves. But slowly and insidiously, like many other things in society that went totally wrong, the concept of aging began to look like a crime. The youth oriented media culture is pushing anyone over 30 into endless self-criticizing. The never-ending quest for the elusive fountain of youth is everywhere.

There will come a time when we will realize, as so many have before us, that it really doesn't matter. Age has nothing to do with anything, it's just a way for us humans to mark time. In other dimensions, like in dreams, for example, there is no time. In fact, you can have several dreams a night, every night. Just because you don't remember, doesn't mean they don't happen. In the same way, there are other dimensions, like when we die. Nobody knows for sure what happens, but one day we will. What I know from experience is that losing someone you love by death is final. There is no chance that you'll bump into that person on the street anywhere, as long as you live. And it's sad.

But to be alive! WOW! What an experience! 

Count your blessings. Count them every day, and experience them. Look, smell, touch, listen, taste the beauty of life. It's all around you. 

Here's to everybody living a long, happy life!

Carmen Colombo

June 11, 2004

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