Monday, July 25, 2011

The Longevity Project - Why I'll live to be 90+

For more than 40 years, Rose Wartsky managed The Rose Petal bridal shop in Tucson. Even at an age north of 90, she didn't have plans to retire. However, the sagging economy finally forced her to close the store.

To my knowledge, Rose wasn't one of the subjects of the Terman study reported in his Longevity Report, but her passion for work, and her ability to overcome adversity (she and her husband emigrated to the U.S. with nothing after WWII) easily put her into a group who would likely live a long time.

The Longevity Report started in 1921 when Dr.Louis Terman of Stanford University began a study of 1500 children to determine what led to long life. Eight decades later, this book The Longevity Project summarizes some Dr. Terman's findings.

As it turns out, longevity isn't dependent on eating certain foods and avoiding others, exercising, reducing stress, or following any of the other conventional wisdom of today. Not that those things don't have some health benefits, but those healthy traits are a result of conscientious behavior, and that's the trigger for long life.

According to the research (and subsequent related research) "the best childhood predictor of longevity was conscientiousness--the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person, like a scientist-professor--somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree." That means I am well on my way to seeing my 90+ birthday.

I found it especially satisfying that the findings predict that it was not "cheerfulness or having a sociable personality that predicted long life across the ensuing many decades. Certain factors were also relevant, but the prudent, dependable children lived the longest. The strength of this finding was unexpected, but it proved to be a very important and enduring one."

Another surprising finding was that working long hours, (like Rose did in her dress shop) even in a stressful job, help add years. If you take some one's well-meaning advice not to work so hard, you  could be shortening your lifespan! That made me feel a LOT less guilty about working the hours that I do!