I often wonder, " How will being 100 years old look and feel?"
I have dedicated my life to preventive medicine and yet it does not escape me that my maternal grandmother, Martina, had none of the advantages that come with the knowledge that I have today.
Yet, she is turned 100 years old on Thanksgiving Day while still living completely alone and independently in the same home she has lived in for the last 40 years. Her memory is good, she does all of her own cleaning and cooking. She lives her faith and she has the health that we all aspire to have at age 100.
As you may know, I am fascinated by longevity medicine and everything that
helps us to live longer and better lives.
It is my passion.
I asked my grandmother some questions and made my own observations of what has helped her to reach 100 in such an enviable state of health. I hope you enjoy!
What 100 Looks Like
According to my grandmother, if you want to live a long, happy life- you have to master the art of being "happy for no good reason".
This is a skill that she has perfected and has served her well thoughout her life.
She is the "happiest" person that I know.
By anyone's measure, she has not had an easy life. She has had many unhappy things happen to her in her long life- including having to leave her country 50 years ago due to Communism and starting completely over in the United States.
She had to leave all of her material possession behind, learn a new language and work harder than she had ever had to work in her life in NYC's Fashion Garment District as a couture sample dress seamstress.
These are the 10 things to which my grandmother, Martina, attributes her long, healthy and
"happy for no reason" life:
My grandmother has a strong sense of faith and is thankful every day for the long life that God
has given her.
She has always turned her problems over to God and had faith that everything would work
out the way that it was meant to be.
My grandmother prays every night as if her life depended on it. According to her, it does.
2. GIVE THANKS: My grandmother tells me she has always given thanks- for the good things
and the bad things that have happened to her.
She has always looked for the silver lining in the bad things- including having kidney cancer
diagnosed at age 90- for which she had to have one kidney removed.
The type of cancer that she had was due to all of her aniline dye exposure throughout her life.
Aniline dyes were used to dye fabric and as a seamstress- she had a great deal of exposure.
She refused chemotherapy because as she told her doctor, " I don't need it."
She felt she had dodged the deadly bullet and she had.
3. LOOK FOR THE LESSON AND THE GIFT IN EVERYTHING:
This is a hard one but she has managed to do this throughout her life.
Instead of blaming others or making excuses, find the lesson and the blessing
in everything that happens.
Everything- every single thing- happens for a reason.
My grandmother says it is best to let go of your anger and bad feelings towards other
people so that you can free your heart.
She has never harbored any anger about having to start completely over in mid
life but has instead viewed it as an adventure. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.
5. FEED YOUR BODY HEALTHY FOOD:
My grandmother's diet has always been very simple, healthy, farm to table food.
She has never enjoyed dining out at restaurants and prefers to cook her own meals
so that she can be sure she knows what she is eating.
She says she has never been on a diet instead always choosing to eat the same healthy foods she likes- yogurt, rice, beans, yuca (root vegetable),sweet potato, bananas, oranges, apples, plantains, avocados, tomatoes, chicken and the occasional piece of chocolate (milky way is her favorite).
6. FEED YOUR BRAIN HAPPY THOUGHTS:
My grandmother is the ultimate optimist.
I don't recall ever having heard her say a discouraging word.
Don't get me wrong- she has strong opinions about everything- it is just she gives it all a positive spin instead of a negative one.
She has always encouraged me to surround myself with positive, happy people and positive,
7. MOVE YOUR BODY:
My grandmother's preferred form of exercise is walking.
She has never had a driver's license or driven a car.
She has always lived in a walking city and still does so - in a small walking town in South Florida south of Lake Okeechobee- called Clewiston- America's Sweetest Town.
She walks everywhere- to the post office, to the hair salon, to her church- which is conveniently located next to her home, to the drugstore, to the bank- all within less than a mile from her home.
This lifestyle has also helped to keep her independent.
Too often, as a person gets older they lose their independence when they can no longer drive safely and are forced to rely on others for everything.
She has always kept this in mind and chosen not to live in a city in which she could not walk to every place that she needed to go.
She has always valued her independence greatly and made the connection early on that if you don't move it, you lose it.
8. DO GOOD:
There is a saying in Spanish, " Haz el bien y no mires a quien." Which means-
"do good and do not look at who".
My grandmother has spent a lifetime doing good and this has brought her a great deal of happiness.
She says it is especially important to do good when no one else knows about it.
9. FIND YOUR PASSION:
According to my grandmother, we are all here on this Earth for a reason.
She believes your passion will lead you to your purpose and a long, healthy, happy life.
She never envisioned herself moving to NYC at age 50 and sewing couture but instead of being bitter about the long hours and the unexpected circumstances that had led her to be forced to leave her country, she embraced the opportunity to do so.
My grandmother helped me find my passion and my purpose of becoming a doctor at a very early age and I am so grateful.
10. SEE THE WORLD AS A HAPPY PLACE.
My grandmother strongly believes that you will reap what you sow.
It is important to feel a sense of love and connection to other human beings and appreciate the people in your life.
Have a support system that helps you live your best life.
Believe that everyone is going out of their way to help you and go out of your way to help everyone.
I hope this has inspired you and that you too will live to be 100 ( and beyond) while looking and feeling healthy and happy.
Wishing you and yours all the best,
Ana Casas M.D.