Who is the oldest person you know? What are they like? Are they cranky and scrooge-like or upbeat, active and pretty optimistic? In spite of the fact you don’t have to live your life perfectly to live a long life, I believe your attitudes, beliefs, moods and overall personality have an impact on longevity. I started thinking about this in terms of myself and my friends and I came up with some interesting observations.

          We all know people who are either excessively younger or older than their years. Do their general moods and personalities differ from those of other people? It goes without saying, if you’ve been overweight and/or smoked or been stressed most of your life, your longevity will significantly be affected as you age. In addition, several studies going back to the 1920’s show that other non-lifestyle factors may significantly affect how long some people live. See if you agree that the following four traits can lengthen the lives of older people.


          Spending a chunk of time with others, which includes positive emotions, loving feelings and stimulating interactions, and reduces negative feelings of isolation, can reduce stress, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Belonging to a book club or meeting friends for lunch or to play cards, for instance, brings meaning into our lives, especially after retirement.


          The statistical jury is still out on the value of a positive, upbeat life. While most researchers say, yes, definitely it helps to not sweat the small stuff and approach life optimistically, there are other studies that say a lifetime of optimism leads to a more cavalier approach to the evils of excess (drinking, smoking) and a shunning of medications and proper exercise.

Volunteer Work/Seva
          While I automatically assume that volunteer work would be good for the mind, body and spirit, I heard from one source that it’s the motivation for volunteering that dictates whether your volunteer work helping others will increase longevity or not. Evidently, longevity is not enhanced if your seva is for self-oriented reasons such as boosting your own ego or for gaining work experience. 

Being Open
          Being open and, in particular, being open to new experiences, helps everyone handle change and helps us adapt to challenging problems. This isn’t just reserved for the elderly. However, being open isn’t easy to quantify and it’s very subjective. Personally, when I’m open I’m not as dependent on the opinions of others, and I don’t angst out as much about “doing it the right way.”

          Like the labyrinth, there may be a maze of paths that get us to the end. What do you believe? Even if you don’t agree that these things increase longevity for sure, at the very least they make for a more pleasant person to be around while we’re among the living.

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