The secret of longevity

Lynne, Age 71
Every day when I wake up I am surprised. Why is this? Well, both my parents died young. Mom at 49 (breast cancer) and dad at 52 (ruptured aortic anurysm). I had no parents since my early 20’s. Through the years I watched my friends and their children enjoy grandparents. In later years I watched them become caretakers of their elderly parents. They often said “longevity runs in my family” as their birthdays came…and kept coming. I had 3 terrific boys to raise within a very bad marriage. No safety net of parents meant I stayed in the marriage past when I should have left it. Finally, after 20 years of that, I went back to school, became economically independent and left the marriage. I then met the love of my life and re-married. My career flourished and I got the job of a lifetime…teaching Psychology at a local community college. My husband and I worked all we could (he was also in education) to get all 5 of our k ids through college, and grad school. Nothing was easy but we managed to do plenty of world travel on a budget and stay grateful to have each other. Our family was never the Brady Bunch but we managed and no one is estranged from anyone.

My husband (aged 75 now) is retired. I worked until 70 to optimize my social security payout. My first year of retirement, last year, felt kind of traumatic. My identity was gone. I didn’t feel bored so much as irrelevant. The “kids” don’t need us. Two of my sons got divorced. One got married. Then one got re-married. I had a granddaughter (yea!) but 3,000 miles away. Life moves on. Then I applied and was admitted to the Institute for Retired Professionals at the New School in NYC. I found a home at this teaching-learning community. So many courses! No tests or papers! So much new stuff to learn! I’ll be teaching (these are study goups and the teaching is called “coordinating”) my second course this term It is called “LUCK”. I spent a lot of time this summer researching the topic. It was a labor of love. Not for everyone I know, but if life-long learning is your thing then find some courses to take. My husband also became a member this year. We recently went to a lecture given by a well known gerontologist (Dr. Mark Lachs, who wrote “Treat Me Not My Age”). Dr Lachs told us that in terms of longevity genetics count for ONLY 20% of it!!! I was so happy to learn this. I don’t have to be so surprised to still be around! If you want to know what he told us is the #1 factor in how long you’ll live reply to this story and I’ll tell you.

One last thing I learned and I guess most of you know as well…being with friends, laughing , telling stories, sharing angst and joy and lots of wine enriches these years more than anything. I wish I could invite some of you over for some stories and wine. Let me know if you’re in the NYC area…or invite me to your place!

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4 Responses to The secret of longevity

  1. What a wonderful website. I found it quite by accident and hope to write a longer piece soon. Thanks.

  2. Diane Dahli says:

    This is such an inspiring story! It is wonderful to learn about people surviving adversity and going on to age so gracefully, and living such full lives. The secret, I think, is to keep on learning and doing new things, as you have done. I’m so glad I have found this website.

  3. Very inspiring! Would love to know the secret to living longer.

  4. Lynn,

    I turned 70 yesterday, Monday, and was touched that many friends came out on a “school night” to help me mark this turning point with a champagne toast and cake. We’re planning a brunch party in April but marking the real date with friends for this special birthday meant a lot to me. 70 is the real zen slap of life , at least for me. “How did I get here?” and all that!!

    My father died when I was 25 and my mother died when I was 32. Both in their 60’s. I was glad to hear that genetics is only 20% of the story of longevity. According to the results of the longitudinal study of adult life development at Harvard, now in it’s 8th decade, secure attachment protects both the heart and mind as we age. I chair a post-graduate aging training program at the Washington School of Psychiatry in WDC (http://www.wspdc.org/0312aging.html) . In May the current director of this study, Robert Waldinger, MD, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, will be presenting the results of this remarkable research. I’m very much looking forward to both his presentation and the small discussion groups that will follow. I think it will be a rich exchange of experience and ideas about aging.

    My immersion in the field of aging along with my private practice in psychotherapy is very stimulating and creates a rich exchange with colleagues, students , friends and family. Life long learning has always nurtured my mind and spirit. And, warm family relationships, along with a few very close friends, have nurtured my soul.

    I find exercise my biggest challenge and it’s so important as we age. So, I’ll stop here and take a walk before my next client. I’ve moved exercise to the top of my to do list so I’ll hopefully be here awhile longer!

    Thank you all for sharing your experiences , thoughts and feelings. Entering this chapter in my life is a bit daunting and it’s heartening to listen to fellow travelers.

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