This week a colleague has gone off to Vancouver Island to celebrate her mom’s 98th birthday.
Her mom is healthy and robust and living comfortably in a senior’s residence in Victoria.
When I asked my friend (Leanne) what she believes is the key to her mom’s astounding resilience, she relayed her belief that there are several keys …
Most importantly she credits her mom’s wholeheartedness and specifically, her attitude of gratitude. She said her mom has had a life-long habit of seeing the world through wondrous eyes and giving perpetual thanks for all things big and small.
After our discussion, Leanne sent me this YouTube video on Gratitude – a family favourite by Louie Schwartzberg.
That led me on an investigation of other key factors contributing to a long life, all equally interesting and inspiring.
Of course, we are all well-attuned to the common ideas around health: eat well, exercise plenty, practice moderation … yadda yadda, but as I polled friends with flourishing senior parents, it became apparent that attitude and wholehearted living practices do indeed play a significant role in resilience.
1. Connecting with nature
My friend Laura’s dad is 94 and living a full and exuberant life in a supportive senior’s complex in Saskatchewan.
An avid outdoorsman, he enjoyed a 47-year career as a surveyor for the government, and has always believed that the key to health and wellness is to be outdoors, in his words, “paying homage to mother nature.”
Laura said growing up, he constantly preached the merits of worshipping in the church of nature. “Every chance he got, he would immerse us kids in woods, parks, and ravines – all things nature.” She describes their month-long family camping vacations in remote forests where they would huddle amid the trees, study bird behaviour, and spend hours gazing at the night sky.
Laura said, to this day, her dad’s favourite pass time is a trip to the woods or any kind of natural outdoor setting.
2. Connecting with loved ones
Grant credits both his parents, now well into their 90s and remarkably healthy and strong, as having the secret formula of true love. He said, ‘My parents are the most loving, and the most in-love people I have ever met. I’m sure that’s why they are both still here.”
This view of love as a measure of sustenance is the subject of many articles, including this one published by The Chopra Center Love Longer, Live Longer.
3. Connecting with animals
Judy shares her belief that the key to her mom’s long life has to do with her steadfast devotion to her horses.
“Mom has always felt such deep love and connection to horses – even as a child growing up in the 30s in Blackie (Alberta) her horses were always there for her, like a balm for her soul.”
Today, at 89, Betty still drives herself to the stable west of Calgary and rides her beloved horse Archie several days of the week. “She can barely walk – she’s all bent over, but when she gets on her horse, she’s like her younger self again – she rises up and shines.”
Judy also points to the tremendous sense of community Betty shares with other avid horse lovers. “The community and comradery around horses is astonishing. These are all her most enduring friends.”
It’s no surprise noticing that what nourishes the human spirit is invariably related to what keeps our bodies strong. After many conversations, it seems abundantly clear, sustenance and longevity is a matter of the heart.
Pat Fream is a wife, mother and 30-year writer with extensive experience in the human services industry. In all avenues of life, Pat seeks opportunities to hear and tell stories and finds joy in the magic of connecting people with shared experiences. An impassioned fan of seniors, Pat draws wisdom and inspiration from her aging parents and their friends, many of whom are living well in vibrant senior communities.