Occasionally, someone will ask me how I’ve manage to live so long — I’ll be 97 in June — and remain so active.
I think the two main factors are (1) inherit healthy genes and (2) establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The last time I had a sickness caused by a virus or bacteria was in 1944, when I got a mild case of dengue fever on the island of Guam, during World War II. I checked into sickbay, drank a lot of fruit juice ... and was dismissed two days later. I don’t recall if they gave me a vaccine or any other medicine.
About the only medical problems I’ve had since then have been with my eyesight, my hearing, my teeth and my prostate.
About 15 years ago a new medicine, injected into my eyes once every three months, eventually stopped further macular degeneration and the injections were discontinued. I can still read the newspaper, with the aid of a magnifying glass.
Hearing aids took care of my hearing problems. My dentist takes care of my dental problems. And an injection once every six months eventually cured my prostate problem, and those injections were also discontinued.
I guess my diet and other lifestyle habits help my immune system take care of the cold virus, influenza and other such diseases.
I was thinking that if I were to describe my diet, my activities and other aspects of my lifestyle, perhaps someone in the medical profession (or somebody else) could interview other nonagenarians and look for things they have in common with me — and come up with advice for other people wishing to live longer.
What is my diet? Well, it’s not a gourmet diet. But I enjoy it.
For breakfast I cook a regular serving of oatmeal with an added tablespoon of chopped nuts, a tablespoon of blueberries, 1/4th of an apple, 1/2 of a banana, a spoonful of honey, a pinch of salt and half cup of milk.
For lunch, I have scrambled eggs with an added tablespoon of chopped bell pepper, a tablespoon of chopped onion, a teaspoon of chopped garlic, 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes, a handful of spinach, plus one slice of whole wheat toast. I spread peanut butter and apple butter on about 1/4 of the toast.
I vary my evening meal. One night I might have a bowl of chicken and vegetable soup and whole wheat crackers, a glass of milk and, for dessert, a slice of frozen key lime pie.
The next night, I’ll have a large salmon salad and whole wheat crackers, a glass of milk and key lime pie.
Then, the next evening, I’ll have an all-beef hot dog rolled up in a slice of whole wheat bread spread with mustard, plus a bowl of vegetable soup, potato chips, a glass of milk and key lime pie.
And sometimes I’ll have a half of a liverwurst sandwich — using one slice of whole wheat bread spread with Durkee’s dressing — along with a dish of diced tomatoes and shredded cheese with Durkee’s dressing. Plus a glass of milk and a slice of key lime pie. Love that key lime pie.
Just as important as what you eat is HOW MUCH YOU EAT. According to Health.gov, the average adult male should consume no more than 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day, depending on his size and physical activity.
If you gobble down too much food too fast, it won’t get fully digested and you’ll grow fat.
Food digestion begins in your mouth. You should chew each mouthful for 30 seconds or longer so that your food will receive enough of the digestive juices to fully digest the food and provide your body with energy and nutrients.
Another essential for living longer is proper exercise. Most of my daily physical exercise involves walking up and down the stairs in my home about eight or 10 times a day. It also exercises my hands and arms, pulling on the banister as I walk up. I also exercise by walking and dancing. I exercise my brain by playing bridge two afternoons a week at the Senior Center (but not lately because of the coronavirus pandemic) and by working the daily cipher puzzles in the newspaper.
And I exercise my creativity by playing my bass fiddle and singing with the Georgia Mountain Music Club band, by singing in my church choir and by writing to the Rome News-Tribune. I don’t draw or paint pictures anymore because of my eyesight.
If the kind of work one does is part of one’s lifestyle, then I’ve had four different careers, a couple of temporary jobs and several avocations.
My first “career” was working on my father’s farm, from age 7 until I graduated from high school in 1941. I got my first job in the summer of 1941, working in the Brighton Cotton Mill in Shannon. I worked there as a twister machine operator until November 1942.
One of the first things I bought with the money I earned was a new trombone. The one I played in the Model High School band belonged to the school.
During that time, I played the trombone and was a vocalist with Rome’s first swing band, Jimmy’s Swingstirs. We played every Saturday night at the La Conga Castle night club. That was my first avocation.
Part 2 of this column will appear Friday, May 15.