Who wants to live forever? According to vampire legends, it seems a terrible curse. Same thing in young adult literature. My sixth grader did a book report on ‘Tuck Everlasting’. The Tuck family accidentally drank water from an enchanted stream that caused them to be immortal. They found it such a burden that they kept the location of the spring as their deepest secret. After some time they found a way to destroy the source of the water. However, most of us are probably interested in having a long life, especially if it can be filled with healthy enjoyable years.
I ran across an excellent TED talk by Dan Buettner about longevity. You can watch the 20 minute talk or read a transcript here. He claims that the capacity for life expectancy is about age 90 for most people, perhaps a bit longer for women. A very few have won a genetic lottery and have a capacity to live over 100 years. At the same time, the average life expectancy in the United States is 78 years. “So somewhere along the line, we’re leaving 12 good years on the table. These are years we could get. And research shows that they would be years largely free of chronic disease, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.” Buettner calls himself an explorer, and he set out to find geographic zones where the people live much longer than people in other places. In his talk he identifies an island in the Okinawa region of Japan, Sardinia which is another Island off the coast of Italy, and Loma Linda, California. He identifies some common elements that help people in these regions live much longer than people elsewhere. If the reason was genetics, our best bet would be to find a spouse from one of these regions and hope the long life genes were dominant for our kids’ sakes. Lucky for us, the commonalities are behaviors. And we can adopt behaviors and even turn them into good habits. That is good news!
From the beer and peanuts perspective, Buettner’s work is fascinating in that it validates much of our message about purpose, meaning and social contact. In future posts I will share some of the details of his findings, but here is a preview: -Longevity is tied to simple tricks to help avoid overeating -There is a significant role for spirituality in enjoying a long life -Working out like a maniac isn’t necessary, but regular low-impact exercise is very common among centenarians -Okinawans don’t have a word for retirement, but they do know their “ikigai” which roughly translates to “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.” I am excited to unpack this work in future posts – stay engaged with Beer and Peanuts, and more importantly, stay engaged with your life!