Today, the average American lives until nearly 78 years of age. In 1900, it was less then 50. So my parents, who were born in 1923, must have been the “Jack LaLanne” of their time – eating well and exercising daily. Dad lived until 84 years and 3 months. He dug a garden trench 3 feet deep and 10 feet long on the day that he died. Mom lived to 87 years and 5 months, the last six years with dementia. But both substantially exceeded the average life expectancy of most Americans. So what did they do to beat the odds by 10% or more?
Well, my dad smoked unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes for 75 years. He liked to cook in lard and fry most everything. He gained nearly 100lbs between graduating high school and old age. He never stepped in a gym in his life.
Mom, as many of you know, liked tasty food. This meant when she had a salad that it was covered in three tablespoons of Thousand Island dressing coupled with three tablespoons of Blue Cheese dressing. She never worked out. In fact, she thought if she were to sweat that it meant she could have a heart attack. She smoked for 20 years.
So why did they beat the odds and live longer?
Here are my theories:
Pure Food. They ate pure foods - grew their own vegetables, fresh milk right out of the cows, killed their animals for meat. No additives or preservatives.
Active. They never worked out in a formal sense, but they were active. My dad was always working doing something. My mom worked like crazy until age 55 and then kept busy with grandkids.
Stress. They didn’t have the stress I feel I do today. They did their work and it was done, with no emails to answer or early conference calls.
Medical Diligence. They were both a little on the hypochondriac side. They were quick to go to good doctors, who found ailments quickly and treated them appropriately. My dad had several cancers and heart issues that could have killed him much earlier if he was less diligent.
Companionship. Although they were both single when they died and had been divorced over 40 years, they had people in their lives until the end. My dad married his third wife at 78 and she was 39. He said it was the best exercise program around.
When you think that eating your Kashi® cereal and going to spin class three times a week for 45 minutes is going to make you live to a 100 years old, think again. Our parents were our parents for a reason, they taught us.