In our culture, aging is seen as something to be feared. Growing older leads to decay and decrepitude — or so we’re led to believe.
But what about all of the people who live long, healthy active lives into their 80s, 90s, or 100s? We so rarely hear about those people, but they’re all around us! And they’re proof that vibrant longevity is absolutely possible.
Age shouldn’t stop us from living robust and passionate lives, and if we take care of ourselves, we can become shining examples of longevity. Pursuing our passions, engaging in healthy habits, and maintaining a positive attitude are all key factors for living a long, healthy life.
Passion Keeps Us Young
90-year-old Yvonne Dowlen was an award-winning ice skater from Colorado who’d been skating her whole life. Even after suffering a stroke — and hearing doctors tell her she’d never skate again — she was back on the ice two months later.
80-year-old Chinese runway model Deshun Wang looks decades younger than his years. In his words: “When you think it’s too late, be careful you don’t let that be your excuse for giving up. No one can keep you from success, except yourself.”
Then there’s 92-year-old swing dancer Jean Veloz. She’s been dancing her entire life, and still gets a chill down her back when the music starts to play. “The word ‘can’t’ — you erase that from your mind. You don’t use that. You can. You CAN do it. You CAN do it,” she says.
80-year-old bodybuilder Ernestine Shepherd is the oldest competitive bodybuilder in the Guinness Book of World Records. She trains women one-quarter of her age. “I really don’t feel like I’m 80 years old,” she says. “But I am! I want to keep training until my day is done.”
Ask any of these remarkable people, and they’ll tell you age isn’t an excuse when it comes to achieving our goals.
Taking Care of Your Temple
Common sense would suggest that taking care of our bodies is an important part of aging gracefully.
Luckily, there are many simple ways to treat ourselves with love and kindness. We can eat a healthy, whole foods-based diet; exercise regularly; avoid alcohol and addictive substances like caffeine and nicotine; and above all — avoid stress. Stress is the silent killer.
Meditation is well-known as one of the most effective tools for stress reduction, so it makes sense that a regular practice would mitigate the aging process, too! The SOS Method’s unique system activates the body’s self healing capabilities to diminish the stress that causes aging and illness.
Studies have shown that mindfulness and meditation increase the enzyme telomerase, which in turn repairs telomeres. Telomeres sit at the end of our chromosomes and allow for continued cell replication. Every time a cell reproduces, its telomeres become shorter. The shorter the telomere, the less time it has left.
But more telomerase means longer telomeres and longer cellular life! And just five minutes a day of the SOS Method can put us on the path to more telomerase, which means healthier, more youthful bodies and minds.
Staying Positive and Productive at Any Age
In addition to taking care of our bodies and pursuing our passions, it’s important that we feel useful throughout our lives.
In the U.S., unfortunately, aging is generally seen as a negative experience, and older people are often ignored or undervalued. In other cultures, however, older individuals have inherent worth as part of a community.
Okinawa is a perfect example. The residents of this Japanese city are renowned for their good health and longevity. They have longer life expectancy and lower rates of common, age-related illnesses like heart disease, dementia, and many types of cancer.
Okinawans get lots of physical and mental exercise, and they eat diets rich in fruits and vegetables and low in fat and salt. But community also members feel a sense of belonging and purpose. All members of society are valued, regardless of age.
According to a Time magazine article on Okinawans: “Elderly women, for example, are considered the sacred keepers of a family’s bond with the ancestors, maintaining the family altars and responsible for organizing festivals to honor them.”
So staying engaged, active, and interested in life is a huge part of ensuring longevity. Despite what our culture may suggest, growing older doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience!
Our Genes Aren’t the Boss of Us
Science suggests that only 20 to 30% of our life expectancy can be determined through our genes. The study of epigenetics has shown that we have more power than we realize over our own DNA.
Here’s how: the epigenome is like a switch on top of our genes that can be turned on, off, or dimmed; it impacts behavior traits and disease passed to future generations. It’s not the same as our fixed traits (like eye color) — the epigenome is mutable and can change, meaning, lifestyle factors and positive experiences can actually affect how our genes express themselves.
If we take care of ourselves, pursue what excites us, and find fulfillment in our lives, we can fight back against faulty or problematic genes. In other words — even if our grandmother or mother only lived to be 50, that doesn’t mean we’re doomed to the same fate.
Within the next few decades, it’s predicted that the study of genetics will uncover how to extend our lifespan by more than 40 years. In the meantime, there’s a lot we can do on our own to live longer, healthier lives. So what are we waiting for?