old-people-616718_1280By Dr. Harold Sala

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him…. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14,16

An elderly woman, approaching 90 years of age, took a pair of shoes to the repairman, asking to have new soles and heels put on them.  When she picked up the shoes and inspected them, she was disturbed at how thin the leather was on the shoes.  Returning to the shop, she said, “Young man, these shoes won’t last me five years!”  He looked at the lines in her face and said, “Lady, at your age, you won’t need them in five years!”

Rising to her full height she indignantly replied, “Young man, I’ll have you know that very few people ever die after age 90!”  True!  Most do die before age 90, but an amazing number of people are living beyond 85 and 90, and even the 100 mark.

Recently, a group of researchers came to the conclusion that with more and more people living beyond age 100, there must be some common factors that contribute to longevity.  After a considerable period of study, interviewing centenarians and talking with them, they concluded that there are some factors which these people all have in common.

One–they are incurably optimistic.  Think what people who are over 100 have lived through!  Two world wars, numerous world crises, depressions, the rise and fall of governments, the invention of the automobile, the airplane, the atomic bomb, to say nothing of surviving the social changes which have taken place.  Yet they are upbeat, optimistic, still getting shoes repaired at age 90.

Another factor which they share is what researchers call engagement.  For most of these folks, engagement is a connection with God.  Most of them attribute longevity to their faith in God, which also means they are connected to other people through a church.  Faith, to them, is a lifestyle which includes forgiveness and love, and excludes bitterness, hatred and revenge.  Their diets proved that it isn’t what you eat that kills you, it’s what eats you.  Another study demonstrated that people who attend church live an average of 5.7 years longer, have better health, and are generally better adjusted than those who do not attend church.

The third factor which these centenarians shared is the ability to handle loss.  All people who live to age 100 have experienced grief and loss, yet, rather than being overwhelmed by it, they were able to make the adjustment, work through their grief and say, “Life is still worth living; let’s get on with it.”  When questioned, one woman told how just that week she had to face the grief of losing her daughter, then 79, yet she was able to participate in the interview.

Another factor shared by these folks was activity and gregariousness.  Rather than hibernate in front of a warm stove, they got out, visited others, joined groups, enjoyed birthdays with friends and generally celebrated life and living.  They got about every ounce of life out of every day.  On my mother-in-law’s 85th birthday, I asked if she had any thoughts about the future and she replied, “Not at all.  I don’t even buy green bananas any more!”  Learning to enjoy and celebrate the health and strength you have is not only part of the key to living to age 100, but it makes every day the best part of your life.

Frankly, I’m not sure I want to live to be 100, but, of one thing I am sure–I want to live today, enjoying it as a gift from God, making the most of moments with family and friends, and enjoying the blessing of God.

Who knows what tomorrow may hold?  It may well be better for everyone not to depend on too many green bananas to ripen before we learn to be happy.

Resource reading: Psalm 90:10-12.