February 23, 2015 Time magazine declared that babies born today might live to be 142—not quite as long as a Vulcan, but I’m sure even otherStar Trek fans were impressed. The article emphasizes the advances in technology that might extend lives. I contend one would need to cultivate other skills to survive techno changes, multiple marriages, the deaths of friends and family, world news depression, and the mischief of great-great-great-great-grandchildren.
Here’s my three-step formula for surviving the prospect of ultra aging: 1) Get smart (or at least educated). 2) Keep moving; stay connected. 3) Cultivate a deep passion for something.
Education provides options. I earned degrees in biology but never became a field biologist, although one professor suggested I might find a nice snail endemic to a tropical island so that my daily research could be capped off with a Mai Tai and a dip in a quiet lagoon.
I initially chose to enter the honorable, if underpaid, profession of teaching, but because I was more interested in biology than biology students—and had a flare for art—I ultimately parlayed my education and obsessions into science writing. My degrees gave me the credentials to do that.
Studies show that educated people tend to live longer, either because they can read medical journals if they have to, or because their education casts a stronger beam of light into the dark alleys of an increasingly complex world.
Keep Moving & Stay Connected
Dick Van Dyke titled his recent book Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging. He knows. He’s a song and dance man graced with talent and good humor. Exercise reduces weight and keeps body parts in working order. Give your thumbs a rest and walk, run, play tennis (my favorite), bike, hike, climb stairs and play ball instead of fantasize about it.
A younger me thought a writer just had to apply seat to chair and write, but if chair-bound writers don’t also apply feet to the ground often enough, words wither in a sluggish brain.
Despite what you hear on the news, we humans also display an outstanding ability to care for and help one another. We need the personal connections and passions that being with friends and family provides. People with strong ties to others live longer and happier lives.
Cultivate a passion
Some of us are born with interests that last a lifetime; some need to cultivate them. Painters paint, writers write, and explorers search the world to find a place they can call home. Some live to serve a well-defined god; others find the divine woven into the very fabric of the cosmos. People with passions seem to drive their carriages farther and longer, fueled by wonders both real and imagined.
Spock (and his alias, Leonard Nimoy) didn’t live long because he was a Vulcan. He lived long to contemplate a universe he found endlessly “faaascinating.”