Longevity (According To Gram)

Last year’s post about life lessons, written with the help of my Grandmother, was one of my most popular posts of the year.

This article will be released on the week that Gram turns 90.

I’m always fascinated to hear what advice anyone can give to living a longer life. Of course, it’s an n=1 example, and perhaps what worked for her may not work for the population at large, but it’s here for posterity and if it helps improve anyone’s life or livelihood, it’s worth the effort in writing it.

I’ll let Gram (also affectionately know as B’mama and RueRue) take over from here:

What is an aspect of your health that you’ve always tried to follow?

I’ve tried to always incorporate exercise, whether it was walking or adding more movement into my day. Of course, when you have children, it’s easy to keep moving. I’ve had four children and six grandchildren (and now twelve great-grandchildren) so I feel like I’m always moving! Because I saw the effects of smoking and drinking in my family, I’ve never been a smoker and I’ve never been a drinker.

Are there certain approaches to your diet that you’ve tried to focus on?

Years ago, I had a nurse tell me to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. I’ve never really had a big appetite but I do feel like that approach to eating has worked well for me.

You taught science and math for many years. How do you think those subjects reinforced the way you approach your health?

Because health was part of what we taught as a component of science, I taught my students about the importance of exercise and nutrition. Mind you, I taught in elementary school and many students didn’t have control over the food they had access to. This was a big learning experience for me. Just because I was able to choose a nutritious food over something that was less nutritious doesn’t mean that my students had the same abilities. I knew that McDonald’s wasn’t the healthiest option but, I also knew, that for some of my students, it was the most practical option for them. So, sometimes the best you can do is teach people to make the best decisions they can and hope that they can do so.

I’ve always marveled at the fact that you continue to challenge your mind. Whether you work on crossword puzzles, games on your iPad that appear to influence the way you solve problems, and even through being an avid reader, it’s inspiring to see. What keeps you motivated to engage in those activities?

I think I’ve just seen too many people get to a certain age and just give up on the things in their life that stimulate them. I like trying to keep my mind sharp. I know I’m moving at a slower pace than I like but my mind is always going and I want to keep it going in positive ways for as long as I can. I think when you stop using your mind, that’s when the trouble begins. I ask a lot of questions, I try to stay informed about what’s happening in the world and I try to stay active in my church. I think all of that helps me, as well.

We lost “Papoo” (my maternal grandfather) nearly 15 years ago and my Uncle Joe (Gram’s youngest son) two months later. Did their passing change the way you viewed your own health?

At the time that they passed, I was the person most involved in the life of my youngest granddaughter. I knew that I had to take care of myself so that I could be the best role model for her. It wasn’t always easy. I can’t describe the feeling of losing both my husband of 56 years and a child. But I wasn’t the only person who felt that loss and grieved those losses. The best that I could do for myself and my family was to stay active, stay involved and process my own grief.

In short, what do you attribute to an amazing 90 years of life?

My desire to live and learn and be with my family. I love life. I’m not afraid to die but I love life. It’s like I tell my prayer group: I am so happy that the Lord put me where I am. I’ve lived through the Great Depression and World War II and I’m just very fortunate to have lived the life I have and I’m not done yet.