Q: What are the secrets to healthy aging and longevity?

A: Perhaps the secrets to healthy aging and living a long life are not so secret! When I look this up online the main answers are what one would expect: staying engaged with friends and family, eating healthy, and exercising regularly.  Of course, sometimes there are health problems that we cannot control, but there is so much we can do to increase our healthy lifestyle.

To look into this further I sat down with someone who is definitely the picture of healthy aging, Richard Randall, who celebrated his 96th birthday on July 20th. I know Richard (who is better known as Dick to his friends) because he comes to Senior Concerns every Wednesday to lead a Stroke support group. His late wife had a stroke in 2001 and he has been involved in this group since then. He tells me that when she passed away in 2007, the Stroke support group greatly helped him through his grief.

His involvement with the support group for over 20 years gives him purpose, social connection, and helps keep him busy. These are traits that are very important to him, and which he credits with his healthy aging.

Richard was born in 1926 in Hollywood, California. Two days after his high school graduation he joined the Navy and fought in World War II on Navy ships in the Philippines and Japan as a radar technician. This started his interest in and career as an electrical engineer.

He met his wife of 55 years on a blind date soon after he returned to the United States. He credits their relationship with helping to make it easier to get through life’s difficult events because it gave him someone to share his concerns with.

Since her passing Richard says, “I decided not to dwell in the past or think too far into the future.” I reflected that this sounds like a mindfulness approach to life. This mentality allows him to keep his stress lower, which is definitely a benefit to his health.

When asked how he got through the pandemic he told me, “I didn’t keep up my activities enough, so I am trying to make up for it now by increasing physical exercise and moving towards a plant-based diet.” Of course, he then commented that bacon counts as a vegetable, so perhaps the best advice is everything in moderation!

It is hard to imagine he ever did not get enough exercise, as he does all his own gardening, and plays tennis several times a week. Richard is involved with a group of 8 friends who have been playing tennis at least twice a week for 30 years. This is another example of how he not only exercises regularly, but values and maintains the social connection of long-time friends.

He also is more comfortable than most his age with technology, which he credits to his career as an electrical engineer. This allowed him to stay up to date on information and more connected during the pandemic.

I asked Richard what his five-year plan is and if he thinks about what might happen if he is no longer able to take care of himself at home. His answer was once again grounded in the concepts of mindfulness. He said, “I don’t dwell on it but I keep aware of all of my options, including that I will come talk to Senior Concerns if needed.”

Staying informed while also not “dwelling” on it is a wonderful lesson from Richard.  We should all focus more on valuing social connections, maintaining friendships, exercising, and staying busy and involved. I look forward to interviewing Richard again next year to see how he continues with his meaningful and active lifestyle.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.


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