Do you look forward to celebrating your 100th birthday?
We do. In fact, we plan on living longer than that.
You may be thinking, “Are they crazy? Who wants to be a miserable, senile, broken-down geezer hanging on long past the expiration date?”
Certainly not us. What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if you could be healthy and active right up until the very end?
There’s ample documentation that unhealthy behavior contributes to afflictions plaguing modern society, like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Recent research indicates we have more control over our destiny than we realize.
In a fascinating new book, The Great Age Reboot, the authors quote studies that illustrate how our lifestyle choices can literally turn genetic “switches” in charge of certain cancers and other debilitating illnesses on or off.
Medical science has already doubled the average life expectancy over the past century. And it’s predicted that newborns today in high-income countries will routinely break the triple-digit age barrier.
But for those of us farther down the timeline, keeping all our parts in working order and making it to 100 years or more is going to require some serious elbow grease.
Although we retired in Ecuador over a decade ago — primarily for economic reasons — our decision has played a major role in advancing our agenda. We’ll explain more about that as we go along.
Here’s what we’re doing to stick around for the next 30 years and counting.
1. The Power Of Intention
Let’s start by examining the motivation behind us wanting to live that long in the first place. Instead of rattling off the reasons “why,” we think a better question is, “Why not?”
Whether you believe in heaven, reincarnation, or lights out for eternity, there’s great truth in the quote, “Life is a stage and you only get one performance. Make it a good one.”
Our intention is to live as well as we can for as long as we can. This lofty mission compels us to make consistent personal choices. It’s both unfair and unrealistic to expect medical advancements alone to carry us to the finish line.
To support our goal, we unequivocally affirm, “We are healthy.” Let that sink in, and understand how living by that declaration simplifies literally everything. The course is set. Being healthy is what you are, not just what you do.
2. You Are What You Eat
We wish we could share with you our super-secret “Longevity Diet,” but it doesn’t exist. We simply eat what nutritional experts advocate for — a balanced diet with lots of fresh whole foods. We focus on a moderate intake of red meat, alcohol consumption, and, most importantly, portion sizes.
When we go to restaurants in the States, we’re appalled at the massive platters of chow brought to the table. No wonder 41.9 percent of Americans are overweight!
Ecuador (and other Latin American countries we’ve visited) is an ideal location for consuming healthy foods. Locally-grown fruits and vegetables that look and taste like the “old days” are always available. The freezer section of supermarkets is minuscule. Most of our meals, whether at home or eating out, are prepared from scratch.
We’re not zealots fixating on details like keeping charts or counting calories. Life’s too short. (Although, maybe that’s not the best expression in an article about living to 100.) We find following a general 80/20 ratio (eat healthy 80 percent of the time, cut yourself some slack otherwise) is all that’s necessary to be healthy and maintain a constant ideal weight.
- Don’t skip breakfast: Greek yogurt, granola, fruit, tea, and coffee start every day at “Casa Staton.”
- Eat your biggest meal at lunch.
- Need a snack? An apple, a palmful of nuts, or a small piece of dark chocolate is our go-to preference.
- Finish your last light meal early and avoid late-night munching. You’ll be doing a modified version of intermittent fasting without even trying!
3. Use It Or Lose It
The human body is designed to be active, but there’s little in our daily lives that involve us being in motion anymore. Instead, most waking hours are spent sitting — in the car, at the dinner table, in front of a computer, or near a TV screen.
Since we haven’t owned a car for over 12 years, walking is not something we need to set aside time for. It’s an integral part of our lives.
Plus, spending time outside has been shown to do everything from improving memory and sleep to reducing depression and increasing life span. More of that, please!
We also hit the gym several times a week for weight-bearing exercise and practice yoga on non-gym days. This fitness “trifecta” — cardio, resistance training, and flexibility — becomes increasingly vital for aging bodies to remain strong and supple.
Perhaps you’re saying, “That sounds like a lot of work!” Honestly, our daily commitment to exercise is about an hour. When you make optimum health a priority, devoting 1/24th of each day doesn’t seem like much of a sacrifice, does it?
A proactive approach is the best defense against osteoporosis, joint replacements, and the deadly broken hip. (No exaggeration. One out of three people over the age of 50 with a broken hip die within a year.)
- Up your walking game by rucking — wearing a weighted backpack. With this simple change, you’ll burn more calories while increasing strength and stamina.
- If struggling to get up and down from the floor is preventing you from practicing yoga, do it in bed! You’ll find the soft surface more forgiving on stiff muscles and joints.
4. A Hard Pill To Swallow
Are you as shocked as we were to learn that prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer; and that those taking the most medications die the earliest?
Nearly half of older adults take at least five drugs each day, and that percentage has tripled over the past 20 years.
A healthy lifestyle keeps the need for prescription meds at a minimum. Except for eye drops required for Cynthia’s glaucoma, neither of us uses any prescription medications. We take a daily multivitamin and B-complex supplement. Over-the-counter drugs include low-dose aspirin, again for Cynthia, plus occasional ibuprofen.
On the advice of our physician, we added a Vitamin D supplement during COVID as a preventative measure. Turns out that low levels of this vitamin are associated with a higher risk of death, particularly from cancer. This is a low-cost, common-sense practice worth following.
5. Be Here Now
Chronic stress is called “the silent killer” because its presence is so often intertwined with almost every leading cause of death.
The overscheduled, deadline-driven, and always-exhausted American way of life is a perfect storm to create stress levels negatively affecting everything from your gums to your heart.
Confession time: Along with our luggage and household furnishings, we brought along solid Type-A personalities when we moved to Ecuador.
The mañana culture of Latin America was a massive shock to our system. Life moves at a leisurely pace and appointments are merely suggestions.
After going through a period of frustration and, yes, even anger sometimes, we realized we had two choices: go with the flow, or go home.
Turns out that, along with our diet and exercise practices, choosing to slow down and take a breath is just what the doctor ordered. Mindfulness, or present moment awareness, helps keep stress in check. Even though we live at an altitude of 8,400 feet, our stress level has dropped to below sea level.
6. Up, Up, And Away!
OK, maybe aspiring to be like Superman is a stretch. How about Super-ager?
This term defines older people who have the mental or physical capability of those decades younger. Research finds this group shares three key habits.
We’ve already mentioned an active lifestyle and moderate alcohol consumption (yes, moderate drinkers are 23 percent less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments than non-drinkers. Cheers!)
The third piece of the super-aging puzzle is approaching life with a sense of curiosity and challenge. A Harvard study calls it “moving outside your comfort zone.”
We certainly served ourselves a heaping portion of that by relocating to a new country with a different culture and language. Then, several years ago, we decided to start an online business with zero tech skills.
The takeaway is to keep pushing yourself mentally. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or Wordle can be beneficial. Pursue an activity you didn’t have time for earlier in life, like volunteering or traveling.
We’re honored to be included in the group of nearly 70 percent of Americans who want to live to be 100. Ironically, it’s estimated that the same percentage of retirees will need long-term healthcare costing upwards of $100,000 a year. Yikes!
No need to move to a foreign country like we did to live a long and healthy life. A nutritious diet, regular activity, minimal medications, mindfulness, and mental stimulation can happen anywhere.
The key is deciding what you will do, then being consistent over time. As with finances, the magic of compound interest creates an ever-expanding wellness balance in your personal longevity “account.”
Whenever your checkout date might turn out, we all have two paths to the exit:
- Complacently experience a steady downward decline as illnesses and injuries compound, and life becomes increasingly miserable.
- Get busy making sure you’re enjoying a robust life right up to the very end.
Hope to see you in the 100-plus club of super-agers!
For more health tips while in retirement, check out these articles: