You hear time and time again that it’s important to stay active after you retire. We’re so used to schedules, meetings, and calendars, it can be easy to get out of a routine — and out of good health — once we stop the 9-to-5.
We wanted to find out what it takes to stay healthy in retirement. What better person to start asking questions than a 97-year-old who seems to be the picture of good health?
Wilbur G. Hudson has maintained an active lifestyle. His daughter-in-law says he’s one of the most interesting humans you will ever meet. He grew up on a farm and served in the Army during WWII, Vietnam, and Korea. When he retired, he became an engineer and has multiple patents to his name. He is part of the greatest generation of our time with so much wisdom to share. And we decided to pick his brain.
Wilbur suffered a massive heart attack in 1989 and had a quadruple bypass. Since then, he had one stint put in. His discipline has helped him outlive a surgery that back then was only supposed to be good for 20 years. Immediately, he started walking with two soup cans in his hand around a nearby neighborhood. He was mowing the lawn when he could have been fishing or playing golf. Needless to say, he leads a very active life.
For Wilbur, it’s also about more than just physical health. Emotional health keeps him strong, too. He constantly sacrifices for his family by spoiling his wife, helping his children, guiding his grandchildren, and taking care of his 97-year-old mother until she passed away.
He never really treated himself to the luxuries of life, except for one thing: chocolate candy. He makes it himself and perfected his own recipe. His family says that once you’ve tasted his chocolates, you’ll never be satisfied with another!
Wilbur turns 98 years old in November. So we wanted to know the five things he does in retirement to stay healthy. He took us for a walk in his shoes.
1. Keep A Schedule
Wilbur makes sure to maintain a schedule that starts in the morning. He wakes up early. By early, he says 6 a.m., but most days he’s already up at 5. This allows him to get a head start on his day. By doing this, he says it puts you in control and you’ll feel like you are ahead instead of behind. He then makes sure he’s in bed by 8 or 8:30 p.m.
2. Have Physical Courage
While staying active and exercising is important, Wilbur says you have to have “physical courage” to move beyond the pain. To him, that means working through the pain or as he likes to say, “just grin and bear it.” He’s been “bone-on-bone” in both knees since he was in his 60s. Since knee surgery wasn’t as refined 40 years ago as it is now, he and his doctor made the decision to deal with the pain. Wilbur likes Vicks VapoRub for achy joints and gets an injection twice a year which acts like a lubricant in his knees.
He uses a Nustep to do 2 miles a day before he has breakfast and then another before lunch. If you’re not familiar, a Nustep provides low-impact exercise that simulates walking and supports deconditioned users. He also uses an exercise ball for about 30 minutes to keep his core strong.
3. Eat For Nutrition
Wilbur starts his day with two mugs of coffee with fat-free creamer. While it may seem a little tedious, he likes to actually look at total calories on everything packaged he eats. He eats a 60-calorie Activia yogurt and one turkey sausage link every morning after logging his first mile.
For lunch, it’s anything from spaghetti and meatballs to turkey and dressing, just not pork or fried food.
For an afternoon snack, he’ll have three to four small squares of 85-percent dark chocolate.
Dinner is similar, usually soup and/or a salad and salmon regularly. His favorite is a good old-fashioned, grilled all-beef hotdog on a bun with ketchup, mustard, and relish.
He’s learned a few dieting tricks along the way. He was told in the army that he needed protein every 4 hours to keep from getting low on sugar and passing out. So, he heavies up on protein. Growing up on a farm, he noticed how pigs get rheumatoid arthritis, so he stays away from pork. The exception is ham on Easter and Thanksgiving. He’ll have soup if his blood pressure is low because prepared soup is high in salt.
4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
This is something we’re told to do our entire lives, and Wilbur swears by it. He drinks close to 64 ounces of water a day. He’s cold all the time, so he keeps his apartment temperature up to anywhere from 77–80 degrees and wears a light cashmere sweater. That, plus being an open-mouth breather when he sleeps and getting 2 miles a day of exercise, accounts for a lot of water loss. He wants to stay hydrated to stay healthy.
He allows himself some exceptions. He’ll have lemonade or iced tea when he goes out. His special treat? A rootbeer float from Arby’s!
5. Know Your Numbers
Do you know your numbers? Knowing your numbers means to learn your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, and body mass index (BMI). This can help increase detection of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, encouraging healthier lifestyle choices. This has been important for Wilbur since he suffered a heart attack. Wilbur measures his blood pressure daily using a wrist cuff and checks his weight on the scale. Because he knows his numbers so well, he knows when he is not well and makes adjustments to his diet immediately if he gains even 1 pound.
Faith is also an important part of Wilbur’s life. He says, after all, the Holy Spirit has kept him safe through three wars. He prays for other people at every meal and lives by the word so that it’s easier for the Holy Spirit to do its job for everyone else and not worry about him. “If the Holy Spirit is with you, you will be fine,” says Wilbur.
As an engineer, he’s quite the creature of habit. When he finds a formula, he sticks to it. That’s certainly served him well these last 97 trips around the sun.
Learn more about healthy lifestyles after retirement: