Paul, John, Ringo, and George sang, “will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” but nowadays people are living to be 94, 98, 102 years of age. We know this is partially thanks to the powers of modern medicine, but what does it really take to live to be in your 90’s?
A few years ago, my husband and I lived with his grandmother for a year while we saved up money. In her 90’s, Mom-mom, as we affectionately call her, is as fit as a fiddle. Her sister is 103 years old (soon to be 104) and living in a nursing home down the street. Her mother lived to be 96 and her younger sister lived to be 88. Good genes huh? But more so, I have came to figure out, Mom-mom is living a long and healthy life thanks to a few little secrets…
1. Make Every Day Important
Every day Mom-mom gets up and goes out in her yard. She digs up weeds, she prunes, she fusses, she stops, stretches, looks at the garden from a new angle, and then starts all over again. She takes great care to make it look as beautiful and perfect as it can be. If she is not working on the yard, then she is working on an arts and craft project. Or she is fixing something in the house. Or she is reading the Bible. No matter what Mom-mom is doing, she is doing it well. She makes every day count, because she knows that each day is precious.
2. Eat Less Red Meat
Mom-mom swears she only eats red meat but once or twice a year. She does her own research as to the foods that are good or bad for you. Although she doesn’t always cook the healthiest things (she loves making cakes, and pies, and southern friend chicken), she keeps her red meat intake to a minimal…and that is a very wise move.
3. Trust Your Instincts
The craziest story Mom-mom has ever told me was the one when she survived a quadruple bi-pass surgery. Yes. QUADRUPLE! It all began with Mom-mom feeling a little weak. Throughout the day she started feeling worse and worse. She just knew something was wrong. She went to the ER and demanded she see her own cardiologist. The ER doctors checked her heart, did an EKG and told her everything was fine. Once again, she demanded to speak to her cardiologist. The ER doctors told her she was fine, gave her some medication and sent her home. That night she got a call from her cardiologist. When she told him her symptoms he told her to go directly to the ER and that he would meet her there. It turns out that Mom-mom had SEVERE blockage in her arteries and needed a quadruple bipass surgery immediately. She trusted her instincts and that saved her life!
4. Get Dressed Up
Mom-mom used to run a beauty salon, so she knows a thing to two about permanents (yes, she calls perms, permanents), and nails, and eyebrows, and makeup, and jewelry. Every Christmas, Thanksgiving, or special occasion you can always expect Mom-mom to put on her favorite blouse, perm her hair, add a touch of makeup, and spruce herself up with a nice pair of earrings or a brooch. She loves to make herself look good. And that is great advice! There really is something to be said about caring about your appearance. When you take the time to make yourself look your best, you feel better and you boost your self confidence. From Mom-mom I have learned that no matter how I feel inside, I will always make myself look beautiful when I go out. Go on…get dressed up!
5. Sleep Less and Do More
Mom-mom doesn’t sleep much because of her restless legs. She can often be heard walking up and down the hallway at night. If you see her the next day, she never seems worn out or exhausted. I think this is a little secret of Mom-mom’s, though she might think of it as a curse. There have been multiple studies shown that older adults actually need less hours of sleep than 20 or 30-somethings. Perhaps the body, as you get older, has less need for rejuvenation (unlike babies, who need more sleep for cell growth) and instead our brain sends our body messages to get up and go. I’m sure in time, science will discover the real reasoning around less sleep, but for now I’m going to follow the Mom-mom way. Why sleep in all Saturday and Sunday, when you can get out there and live your life?
6. Maintain Your Exercise Regimen
I used to hate exercise. What a chore. What’s the use? I used to say. To get me to run was like pulling teeth. But now that I am getting a little older and wiser, I have come to really enjoy a daily or weekly exercise regimen. Studies have shown that exercise not only increases your serotonin level, but also can help fight osteoporosis, heart disease, and diabetes. Mom-mom has a daily exercise regimen that she does. It may not be much, but it helps her stay fit and healthy. And if Mom-mom can exercise at the age of 94, what’s your excuse?
7. Don’t Focus on the Wedding, Focus on the Marriage
One of the best pieces of advice Mom-mom has given me was one day when I was particularly stressed out about planning our wedding. “In my day we didn’t care so much about the wedding as we did about the marriage,” she laughed. I was speechless. It was so true, I had focused so much time and energy on planning the wedding, I had almost forgotten that I was getting married. That day I stopped all the planning and just had a nice dinner with my husband-to-be (now my happy husband). The wedding, though a beautiful moment in your life, is nowhere near as beautiful as the years you spend together. Mom-mom lost her husband and so she reminds me every day to cherish the husband I have, and for that I will always thank her.
8. Believe in Something
Mom-mom has a lot of faith. She spends a lot of time at church or reading the Bible. While I know that is not for everyone, I do think it is important to have something you believe in, something that you feel passionate about. As you get older, stay strong and true to your beliefs. Let them guide you through your ups and downs. Whatever drives you – let it continue to drive you. Don’t waver from it. These beliefs will only make you stronger.
9. Dance Like No One is Watching
This is Mom-mom at Rob’s cousin’s wedding. She can really bust a move! What better advice is there than to just kick off your shoes sometimes and dance like no one is watching!
10. Don’t Take It So Seriously
Mom-mom loves to laugh. Sometimes she says silly things. She called me “Sushi” once by mistake, and I almost spat out my drink I was laughing so hard. And although she can be a handful at times, Rob and I love her dearly.
“Here’s to you, Mom-mom. Thank you for all that you do.
Happy 94th birthday and many, many more.”
Love Sook and Robbie