Mum turned 86 yesterday, on the same day that the BBC’s new 2 part programme started, How To Stay Young. Episode 1 covered the obvious, diet, exercise and stress.
Now I wouldn’t say mum is a young 86 year old, happily walking around the corner to the shops and planning her next Saga cruise, but she is still mobile. Even if a walking frame is required to keep her on an even keel. So what’s her secret elixir of long life. Well I would suggest it starts with genetics and what’s in the blood line first of all and then what environment you grow up in. If you are dealt bad genes in the first place then I would suggest you will still have less chance of longevity. A healthy diet and exercise will help, but the cards your dealt are still the only ones you can play. If your parents smoke and your brought up in difficult circumstances this will just compound the issue, again in my non scientific opinion.
Dad died in his early 80’s and Mum’s now mid 80’s so you could say they have good stock. They never drank to excess (occasional wine with a meal in later life) and only a pipe or occasional cigar when dad was younger. So what else can we consider as influencing their timelines.
Diet – mum was never a brilliant cook. She didn’t enjoy it and so did the basics to provide a hearty meal to Dad after work and the test of the family. I remember growing up and knowing what meal I would come home to based on the day of the week. Monday = shepherds pie (using meat from Sundays roast), Tuesday = pie of some sort (using rest of meat from Sunday), Wednesday = toad in the hole or sausage and mash, Thursday = stew or casserole (potentially using meat from Sunday) with Friday always being Fish. Saturday was probably the only hard day to predict but with only a few options left, e.g. faggots or chops. Sunday was always a roast and this then set up the meals for the next week.
This meal choice was at least home cooked, so no processed meals and with plenty of vegetables so fairly healthy and therefore probably helped.
Exercise – again mum and dad were not sport mad but enjoyed an active life and supported us when we wanted to play sport. Walking was the way of life. You walked everywhere. Around the corner to the shops, over the fields with the dog and into town to visit the library. Holidays always had walking built in, whether it was walking to see a steam train, a stately home or simply to get to the top of a mountain or the other side of a lake.
Stress – Growing up during WWII could never be labelled as fun and must have been stressful. Never knowing what the next day or even hours would bring. You then have the post war period, dealing with food rationing, national service and financial recession as the country tried to rebuild itself. Dad worked for the MOD and eventually through promotion was fairly high graded and again, managed people and equipment etc. so would have had stress at work. Mum stayed at home until we (the children) started university. Financially we were never well off but they worked hard to support all 4 of us and still have money for a summer holiday and presents for birthday and Christmas.
So reasonable diet, active lifestyle and moderate stress and they hit their 80’s. I’m sure these elements combine along with upbringing to help you to stay young but I think Dr Chris van Tulleken made the important statement about things in moderation but ensure you enjoy life. Mum and Dad loved each other and created a loving environment for all of us to grow up in. I find myself trying to remember how they did this and wanting to replicate it with Sonia and Ella. This is the real elixir of long life, enjoying what you have around you, at the time you have it and not looking back with regret when its too late.
We all eat the wrong things at time, we can all do more exercise and life is stressful, you just learn to cope as well as you can. The trick to living longer in my view is to enjoy everything as much as you can. If something makes you unhappy, do something about it. Yes moan for a bit, but then do something or get over it and look for positives. Never be a half pint full kind of a person as you will miss out on years of your life when you could have been enjoying it!