Recently, 91 year old Sy Perlis of Arizona was in the news for breaking the world weightlifting record in his division, but he isn’t the only 90-something year old plus who is doing amazing things. Geriatric specialist are saying that longevity is the new normal as more and more individuals are living longer and doing more at a ‘later’ age.
There are over 61,000 people in this country over the age of 100. Kelly Ferrin, gerontologist and author of the book What’s Age Got to Do With It? says that “just like we are seeing more and more millionaires, we are seeing more and more centenarians.” Apparently, recent studies at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York on longevity report that genetics only have about a 30% influence on how long we live, the other 70% is purely lifestyle choices.
Tao Porchon-Lynch is a 93 year old yoga instructor and ballroom dancer. At the age of 87 she had hip replacement surgery after a fall broke her hip. She only hesitated briefly before deciding this one little thing wasn’t going to set her back. She got right back into yoga and dance and sent her surgeon a photo of her in lotus position saying “Don’t tell me I can’t do it!”
Oregon resident, Lew Hollander became the second 80-year-old to compete in and complete the very challenging annual Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii which includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run. He wants to take the record as the oldest man to finish this race, and it looks like he’ll do it.
Ferrin strongly believes that “we’ve got to start taking a look at what’s right with age, instead of just focusing on what’s wrong with it.” We’ve been so conditioned in this culture to look at aging negatively, coming equipped with all kinds of bodily deterioration and illness, but that simply does not have to be the case. According to studies, 50% of the ailments that affect those over 50 years of age are a result of inactivity, not age. That is half of what people consider ‘part of aging’ as not actually part of the deal at all, but instead lifestyle choices and beliefs have more to do with it. These two factors can be changed.
We have got to stop believing that just because we are ‘getting up there in years’ that we are going to start falling apart. We must to stop looking at those who do extraordinary things at a later age as somehow special, but rather shining examples of what the body can still do – at any age. When those over 100 years old were asked what kept them in good health and alive so long they all answered about the same – with 4 main reasons:
1- An optimistic, positive attitude
2- A sense of purpose and passion for life
3- Being active, mobile and engaged in activities
4- Resilience – being adaptable to whatever life throws at you
Dr. Jeffery Levine, a geriatric physician out of New York City comments: “We are witnessing the biggest demographic transformation in human history … where advances in medicine and lifestyle improvements and awareness of factors that lead to healthy aging have enabled people to reach a very old age. This is really a recent phenomenon in history.”
One of Dr. Levine’s philosophies come from a 91 year old mailman who has been working for over 70 years – “why retire?” So often, the idea and act of retiring actually causes aging to set in for many, as they find themselves suddenly without fulfilling work to do. Going back to number 3 above, stay active – no matter if you are working or not – stay engaged in life – and longevity can become the new normal for you too!
Spiritual philosopher and world renowned author and mystic Almine says of aging “Aging and decay come through resistance to life, which causes the draining of resources by creating a centrifugal force around the body.” She explains this further by saying resistance of life is resisting living from the heart, and instead living more ‘from the head’ creating the experience of linear time. Surrender to life, or non-resistance, is the act of engaging life with ‘upward facing’ attitudes, such as love, praise and gratitude, or optimism and purpose – in this way we live from the heart and actually cancel the effects of linear time, if you will. (a more detailed explanation can be found in the video below)
Keiko Fukuda, a 99 year old Judo instructor -having practiced her art for over 70 years- is an example of someone not resisting life, but instead living from her heart doing what she loves. Allan Johnson, an 80 year old rodeo rider, is still engaged in his joyful expression of life after 64 years, reporting that he is not even the oldest rider in his field, with an 86 year old friend still active.
These cases all illustrate some of what is possible in these bodies of ours, even in the so-call ‘geriatric’ years. We would do well to remove all the advertisements for adult diapers, Alzheimer’s medication and dentures and replace them with positive encouragement for what we are all capable of at any age. Perhaps if we stopped promoting aging as a negative experience filled with wrinkles and bodily failures and started highlighting the amazing benefits that come with longer life, we would see a return to the honoring of wisdom in our elders.
Looking at the many examples of active people approaching 100 years in this country, we have the opportunity to claim longevity as the new normal and reject decay, disease and early death as what is ‘expected.’ More and more it is becoming clear that our attitude and lifestyle choices have everything to do with how we age and even if we age. Our cells have the potential of renewing themselves endlessly, according to science. The determining factor is the way we treat our bodies and the thoughts we have in our minds. So let’s increase that 61,000 centenarians to exceed the number of cancer cases and heart disease in this nation and we will have accomplished the great feat of a massive paradigm shift. With such a shift, we may just find ourselves experiencing an entirely new reality of health, longevity and miraculous discoveries.
Written by: Stasia Bliss follow me on Twitter