Want to live longer?

Three new thoughts to consider

Out of every 100,000 people on earth, six of them (yes, just six) live to be 100. So it pays to reason that, when a centenarian speaks, it’s worth listening.

And then there’s Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara. A longevity expert credited with helping extend the life span of people in his native country, Hinohara died this past summer at age 105. But that’s not the remarkable part. What’s remarkable is the way Hinohara approached his life, the attitudes he cultivated and the motivating forces that carried him past 100.

Hinohara’s advice was anything but conventional. The following quotes, taken from a wide-ranging 2009 interview, are drawn from recent articles in businessinsider.com, nytimes.com and openculture.com:

1. To conquer pain, have fun.

“Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it. If a child has a toothache, and you start playing a game together, he or she immediately forgets the pain. Hospitals must cater to the basic need of patients: We all want to have fun. At St. Luke’s we have music and animal therapies, and art classes.”

2. Don’t worry about three meals a day (or how much sleep you get).

“We all remember how as children, when we were having fun, we often forgot to eat or sleep…I believe we can keep that attitude as adults — it is best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime.”

3. Don’t blindly follow what your doctor says.

“When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure. Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery? I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.”

And here are two of Hinohara’s more conventional recommendations:

Don’t retire. Wrote Rachel Gillett, in her piece for businessinsider.com: “[Hinohara] recommended several basic guidelines. . . among them: Don’t retire. And if you must, retire much later than age 65. In the interview he explained that the retirement age in Japan was set at 65 years old back when the average life expectancy was 68. Now, people are living much longer — the average life expectancy in Japan as of 2015 was almost 84 years — and so they should be retiring much later in life too.”

Keep moving. No escalators or elevators for Hinohara – he said he always took the stairs, and carried his own belongings. “I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.”

A few words about Hinohara: He believed life is about contribution. He wrote a musical for children at age 88 and a best-selling book when he was 101. Up until months before his death, he continued to see patients. He continued to set goals for today, tomorrow and five years from now. After turning 100, he took up golf. Said Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary: “He is one of the [people] who built the foundations of Japanese medicine.”

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