an elderly couple on a bench looking at the ocean

How to live into your 90s

This isn’t like much of what I share here, but, then, this year isn’t like any we’ve experienced. From pandemic to other major personal life changes, I’ve been exercising less. It’s a challenge I’ve had before.

I’ve been thinking about that, as I’ve tried to maintain other habits. It’s something we all might ask: how can I live a longer, healthier life?

Five years after the initial round of findings from a longitudinal study called 90+, I saw an update on a new, detailed review on what we know about living longer and healthier. I thought I’d share a few of the simple takeaways, if only for my own uses.

In 2014, 60 Minutes produce a thorough piece on those initial findings, backed by detailed health records on 14,000 people who were in their 50s in the early 1980s.

No surprise, since this research was so thorough, many of the takeaways have made their way into public consciousness. That’s good! As a result, much of this will be familiar, but I like internalizing it nonetheless.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Duh, Smoking (and other excess) obviously bad: This confirmed all this. Smoking is still pretty much the worst thing you can do in polite society. But even lots of sugar or pretty much too much of anything showed negative effects. In short, the old wisdom to live in moderation is certainly sound.
  • Exercise! 45-minutes daily of even low-intensive physical activity predicted longer life. Walking and yard-work can count. At least 15 minutes everyday, even a walk.
  • Socialize and have activities! Those who maintained groups of friends, joined clubs and had recurring activities well into retirement, for at least an hour every day, lived longer! Keep learning and challenging yourself mentally; switch up habits and keep trying to build new ones.
  • Drink alcohol! Although more likely the reason is because those who drink tend to be those who socialize (see above), so this could be correlation not causation, it was still interesting that moderate alcohol drinking (up to 2 drinks a day, not just red wine; whiskey counts!) predicted longer life.
  • Drink coffee (with no or limited sugar): Reduce sugar, reduce sugar, reduce sugar but coffee drinking (1-3 cups) every day predicts a longer life.
  • A little weight later in life helps: Though obesity is a serious contributor to heart disease, as we know, it is better to be a bit overweight later in life than underweight. But we do not know want to be overweight when younger (younger than 50), as that adds to heart weakening.
  • Have romance!: People who maintained intimacy, and those who found new partners after other passed, were more likely to live longer.

One note that I’ve read other places (like this big Economist story): The likelihood of dementia keeps doubling in likelihood every five years of life, even late in life. So as our population keeps getting older as a country, we’re predicting an overwhelming amount of dementia patients.

That’s another challenge altogether.

(Photo by James Jose Jr. via Unsplash)