Want to Live to 100?
Spotted at the 1400 Bar & Grill, Alameda, CA
So I’m idly glancing at the drinks menu in a California pub when I notice a curious offering. “Grandma Cooper,” it says. “$1.05 (Between 5:00pm and 5:15pm only) George Dickel Whiskey and 7-Up.” Naturally I ask the bartender about it, and she explains that one of the bar’s owners had a grandmother who enjoyed a whiskey and 7-Up every afternoon at 5:00 – and lived to be 105. What a legacy: living more than a century and getting a highball named after her. My kind of old lady!
Is whiskey the secret to a longer life? A 90-year-old neighbor once told me his: eating a stalk of celery every day. The folks at Dannon ran a great ad campaign back in the 1970s about people in Soviet Georgia who lived well into their second century on a diet rich in yogurt. But I have another theory.
Also from the 1400 Bar & Grill
I once wrote a magazine article about a research project that divided frail, very elderly residents of a nursing home into two groups. The first remained decision-free, while the second group was given small responsibilities such as caring for a plant and choosing meal menus and movies. The second group stopped deteriorating and began to thrive; they shocked everyone by living significantly longer, better lives.
I remember sitting back in my chair, gobsmacked, when I first read about this study. I mean, if just watering a fern and deciding between My Dinner with Andre and World War Z will give you a new lease on life when you’re 90, what does that suggest about the way we ought to be leading our lives now – and in the years ahead?
This study is one of the many reasons Rich and I moved to Seville. Because when you live abroad, the first thing you give up is your ability to go on automatic pilot. Even the simplest daily activities require plenty of ingenuity and fortitude.
For instance, there was the time, early in our Seville days, when Rich wanted to make a small repair in our apartment. After a quick trip to the dictionary, we set out for the hardware store muttering “destornillador, destornillador, destornillador” (screwdriver, screwdriver, screwdriver) to ourselves. Unfortunately, when we arrived, my mind went blank and Rich blurted out a similar word, ordenador (computer), causing such mutual confusion that we were forced to abandon the attempt and flee the scene without buying either a screwdriver or a computer.
At the time, we were frustrated and annoyed with ourselves, but after we got over our dudgeon, we had a good laugh, and we’ve been telling the story for years. Unlike those of our friends whose retirement goal is a life of untrammeled ease, I like facing up to the challenges of living abroad. It adds a lot of zest to the daily round. When a simple visit to the hardware store becomes a test of skill and wit, I know that even if I walk away without a screwdriver, at least I am acquiring the tools I need to keep my brain — and my sense of humor — ever more finely honed.
Maybe the real secret is just making sure you have a regular dose of fun in your life, something to look forward to every day. A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Rich’s Aunt Mary, a cheerful, chatty woman who had recently celebrated her 101st birthday. When I asked for the secret of her longevity, she raised the glass of whiskey she was holding and said, “I have one of these every day.”
So now you know why I’ve decided to return soon – and often – to that California pub, arriving at 5:00 on the dot so I can say, “Make mine a Grandma Cooper. With a stick of celery and a yogurt chaser.” Cheers.
7/17/2013 10:48:17 am
You hit the nail on the head: zest. Living abroad gives life zest. Other ways are to be outside, dealing with the weather, or taking a class that makes your mind and/or body stretch. Anything new that amps up the adrenaline. Love your blog!
7/18/2013 08:38:14 am
You're so right, Nancy. There are lots of ways to bring zest to your life, many of which do not involve travel or whiskey. Just taking walks in different neighborhoods or parks lifts my spirits along with my heart rate. And thanks for your kind words about the blog!
7/17/2013 11:04:23 am
I believe it was Clement Freud who said "If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving, you don't actually live longer; it just seems longer." - I am a firm believer that keeping both body & mind active contribute to a more fulfilling life. Great post!
7/18/2013 08:41:22 am
Thanks, Sue, and I love the quote. It's so true; a watered-down life is not nearly as much fun - or as fulfilling!
7/17/2013 12:09:02 pm
My father in law once told me to 'never trust anyone who doesn't smoke or drink....'
7/18/2013 08:48:43 am
Your father-in-law is very wise, John. Of course, I do have friends and relatives – great people – who don't actually smoke or drink. But – and I think this is the real point – they are embracing life exuberantly in other ways. All too often, a teetotaler mentality seems like an effort to hide from life – which is as foolish as it is impossible. Cheers!
7/17/2013 02:06:01 pm
Love it. Zest (and I don't mean so much the orange kind), celery, martinis----and art.
7/18/2013 08:50:51 am
You're so right Tobey! Zest, celery, martinis and art are among the basic building blocks of life! I would have to add chocolate....
7/17/2013 02:18:10 pm
In Cuba one of the members of the Centarian Club attributed his longevity to a daily cognac and Cuban cigar, dancing and chasing after the ladies - love it :)
7/17/2013 02:27:39 pm
On a more serious note, there's a great study done by Harvard University in a Nursing Home on the benefits of Transcental Meditation. Not only did residents who practised meditation feel younger, have sharper mental powers, and feel better about themselves than nursing home residents who did not meditate or who practiced other techniques to relax - but they also lived longer! I love meditation :)
7/18/2013 08:55:01 am
I love both your comments, Lucy! Whether it's Cuban cigars and whiskey or TM, it's about living deeply and fully, in your own authentic way. That seems to be the real key to a long life. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.
7/22/2013 06:11:19 am
If I'm ever San Francisco way again, I will be sure to call into that bar at the appointed time. I love that quirky idea. I think quirky ideas contribute to longevity, too, whatever they may be.
Bob Hildreth (rocky)
7/23/2013 11:45:15 am
Be involved in anything that takes the focus off your own problems. Life is to short to be looking back.
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
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