Avoid stress, be useful: 90-year-olds on how to have a long, happy life

Importance of being active, tolerant and not worrying about internet dating, by ninetysomething women and men

A study suggests that average life expectancy will soon exceed 90 for the first time. Women born in South Korea in 2030 are forecast to have a life expectancy of 90, with other developed countries not far behind.

France is second in the league table for women, at 88.6 years, with British women 21st, at 85.2 years, and British men 14th, at 82.5 years.

We asked men and women in their 90s what life has taught them about ageing. Here is a selection of our interviews.

Jean Miller, 94, from Falkirk: Life is an education. Ive realised theres a rhyme and reason for everything

The key to reaching such a good age is to keep active and interested in things. I was working in a salon up until last year, but I had to leave as I was feeling a few aches and pains. I didnt want it to get to the point where management asked me to leave. I used to take coats and make sure all the guests through the door were attended to. I made lots of great friends this way.

The moment you stop and sit in a chair is when you struggle. I have a lovely family and have taken an interest in the world around me. Now I am no longer working I go to a gym class on a Monday. Its a class for over 50s so its fun, enjoyable exercises. We have tea afterwards. I also joined the University of the Third Age, a group for retired or semi-retired people to get together and learn for fun. Theres a theatre group I am part of through this and I am also hoping we will get to learn German soon. I signed up but we need a few more people to get involved before we can get started.

Life is an education and if you dont learn as go along then thats bad. Ive 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 dont. Ive realised theres a rhyme and reason for everything. In life youve got to take things as they come.

Pam Zeldin, 94, from Manchester: Get enough sleep, and dont drink to excess that said my older sister does enjoy a little G&T

Pam
Pam Zeldin, 94 (left) with sister Nora, 98, and granddaughter Sophie. Photograph: Sophie Zeldin-O’Neill

I live with my sister Nora, who is 98, and we look after each other. Ten years ago her husband died and both her daughters were living in France at the time, so I said she could come and stay with me. We have always got on very well, and work as a team. We do all our own housework and have a chap who comes to tend to the garden. We clean the house together she does the upstairs and I do downstairs. She cooks, and I do everything I can to help.

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 dont drink to excess that said, Nora does enjoy a little G&T in the evenings!

When I retired, I joined a local choir and the Townswomens Guild. Getting involved in the community is really important as you get older because it broadens your social circle and your interests. I have always tried to get out a lot. I have two daughters, one of whom lives very nearby, so she often gives us a lift, or well get a taxi. She also takes us on trips to places nearby, which we really enjoy. I have a scooter which comes in very handy and we have a little push trolley for when we go shopping. We also go to the cinema and the theatre, and on coach trips around the country. We go to the library and get our medicines delivered. We cant go too far but we manage just fine.

I have learned that tolerance and routine is good. And to look after yourself and stay as active as possible. Being in your 90s is not as fun as other ages because youre not as active, and your mobility is restricted. But you have to learn to cope as best you can. We have visitors – my other granddaughter who lives in London has come to Manchester University, so I am here for her at any time. Its wonderful having grandchildren in the family.

What would I tell my younger self? I think Ive done ok, but I would say, start as early as you can to make yourself financially stable for when you get older, so that you dont have to worry. Take advantage of every opportunity – dont just sit in the house. Also, travel as much as you possibly can – see the world, live well, take care of yourself. But dont take things too seriously – its important to have lots of fun along the way too.

Krishnamoorty Dasu, 90, New Jersey, US: To a great extent, age is just a state of the mind

Krishnamoorty
Krishnamoorty Dasu, 90: The most important thing: be useful to yourself and to others. Photograph: Tamraparni Dasu

Ive made it to this good age simply because death has been kind enough not to knock on my door.

I enjoy my life, it is a gift. Negotiating it itself is fun. Old age is what others attribute to you. To a great extent, age is a state of the mind. I take pleasure from listening to music and reading fiction. This is what I do for enjoyment these days.

I have learned a lot over the years but the most important thing: be useful to yourself and to others. If I could send a message to my younger self it would be to keep your mind and body fit by reading and rumination and through walking exercises. Also, eat in moderation. You really do not need all that food you eat.

Don Anderson, 99, from Birmingham: Youve got to take life and love gently, avoid the stresses

Don
Don Anderson, 99: After my wife died, I tried internet dating. But it didnt work out

My advice for living to a good age is to take life slowly. This means avoiding the stresses that go with a lot of jobs. Find something peaceful to do like I did. My career was varied. I ended up actually founding Harlow, a local government district in the west of Essex. I bought the land it was built on and set up a council. I was one of the areas founding fathers. I was a land agent before that and later in life became a professor.

I dont have a great deal of hobbies now but I read a lot and I also keep active online. I use my iPad a lot. Ive learned a lot over the years, but as I said above the biggest lesson is to take life in a measured and relaxed way, not to rush or worry too much about things. The same goes for what I have learned about love. My wife died some time ago and I tried internet dating after that. But it didnt work out. Youve got take love gently too.

Sheila Keating, 91, from London: I have actually gained interests. I never used to write but I do that quite a lot now

Sheila
Sheila Keating, 91: I dont eat particularly healthily. I dont exercise enough

Life in your 90s is much slower because I have difficulty with movement. But luckily I am not slower intellectually. I have actually gained interests. I never used to write but I do that quite a lot now. In fact I have written my husband [HRF Keatings] biography and am waiting to get it published. I also record audiobooks.

One thing I hate though is modern technology. I use it of course but bitterly resent how much its used. Theres no other option in many cases. I think this is wrong because it doesnt always work.

What have I learnt over the years? I am more tolerant than I used to be. That doesnt mean I dont champion certain causes I am passionate about but I live with others way of life more readily. Thats a plus for when you get older.

My biggest pleasures include having supper with friends and family. I go to the theatre still, not so much west end as its too expensive. I used to go swimming but have had to cut back on physical activities now. Thats one of the negatives of getting to this age.

I think Ive managed to live this long due to sheer luck. I dont eat particularly healthily. I dont exercise enough although I used to more. I dont think you can say any one thing is the key to a long life. All I know is that youre extremely lucky if you keep your health into your 80s. You are there and ploughing on until 100 thats where I aim to get to.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/feb/23/90-year-olds-avoid-stress-be-useful-long-happy-life

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