Asking those 90+ their tips for a long, happy life

October 5, 2023

It’s no secret that Canadians are living longer lives than ever. According to Macrotrends, life expectancy in this country is now, on average, 82.96 years — in 1950, it was around 68 years.

What may be more of a secret is the tips that those age 90 and beyond know — what things they do and live by that account for their extremely long lifespan. Save with SPP took a look around to see what the extremely elderly think are key tips for living a long and happy life.

When the CBC looked into this topic, they found there was no single “right way” to go.

“For each healthy-living centenarian who stayed active in family and community, you’ll find an equally aged whisky-loving example who smoked unfiltered cigarettes and shunned company,” the broadcaster reports.

Toronto resident Mohammed, 110 at the time CBC interviewed him, had three tips, the report notes. “Stay active. Chew your food longer than you thought possible, and eat fruit every morning.”

Toronto’s Zoltan Sarosy, 107 years young, “stays sharp by reading the news and emailing friends and family — he bought his first computer at age 95,” the CBC notes.

Finally, the CBC says that Agnes Fenton of New Jersey, now 111 years old, “says a daily beer and whiskey are her keys to longevity.”

Writing for CNBC, minister Lydia Sohn says her preconceptions about the elderly “went out the window” once her work brought her in touch with many long-lived members of her community.

While her many interviews with the elderly did uncover common regrets — not having as good a relationship as they could have with kids, not putting kids on the right career path, and regrets about “not being a better listener,” there was consensus on what helped make a long life a happy one.

“According to my 90-something interviewees, the secret to happy and regret-free life is to savour every second you spend with the people you love,” writes Sohn.

“Put another way, when I asked one man if he wishes he had accomplished more, he responded, `No, I wish I had loved more,’” she continues.

The seniors she met may have had regrets, like not having enough time with their late spouses or family members, but all liked to “laugh like crazy, fall madly in love and fiercely pursue happiness,” the article concludes.

Okay, so attitude is essential — look forward, not back. What other tips do people have?

Across the pond in the U.K., the Guardian offers up a few more ideas.

Falkirk’s Jean Miller, age 94, worked in a salon up until a year ago and says it is essential “to keep active and interested in things.”

“The moment you stop and sit in a chair is when you struggle,” she warns. “Life is an education and if you don’t learn as go along then that’s bad. I’ve learned to see things in a different way over time. My biggest lesson is to be more patient. I used to worry about things but now I don’t. I’ve realized there’s a rhyme and reason for everything. In life you’ve got to take things as they come.”

Pam Zeldin, 94, from Manchester tells the Guardian “my main advice for people who want to live to a good age is to look after your health and live moderately. Also, get enough sleep, and don’t drink to excess.” Her older sister, who she lives with, still enjoys a little gin and tonic in the evening, she confides.

Finally, in an article in the New York Post, entrepreneur Sahil Bloom shares the advice he got from older people — via social media — when he asked for their life advice prior to his 32nd birthday.

Among the responses were “now and then, break out the fancy china and drink the good wine for no reason at all,” the newspaper reports. “Tell your partner you love them every night before falling asleep,” another elderly person advised, since “someday you’ll find the other side of the bed empty and wish you could.”

Other gems included “do one good deed a day, but never tell anyone about it,” and to not delay difficult conversations. Finally, the article reports, the seniors advised him to “find the things in life that make your eyes light up,” and “laugh loudly and unapologetically whenever you feel like it.”

These are great little bits of advice. Recently our local TV news interviewed a 100-year-old, again asking him for his tips on longevity. He told the reporter that it was important to deal with problems promptly, and to resolve them, rather than hoping they will go away on their own. Also a nice bit of advice.

If we are going to live to see a birthday cake with 90 candles on it, our younger selves should be setting aside some money for that future birthday party. If you have a retirement program at work, be sure to sign up and contribute to the max. If you don’t, have a look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan, an open, voluntary defined contribution pension plan that any Canadian with registered retirement savings plan room can join. You decide how much to contribute, and SPP does the heavy lifting of investing and growing that money. When it’s time to retire, your options include getting a lifetime monthly annuity payment based on some or all of your savings. Check out SPP today!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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