How long do you want to live? I’ve got a number in mind: 86. That seems like plenty of time and, in fact, downright lucky given I had a little scrape with colon cancer. My parents are in their 80s, and my grandparents lived into their late 80s and early 90s. So maybe I’m short-changing myself. I have a friend who believes she might go sometime in her 70s. But most of us hope for a longer life (and a peaceful death during sleep).
Gerontologist and radio commentator Mark Lachs suggests that living to a ripe old age might have something to do with attitude. Sure, he acknowledges, genes play a big role, but “adaptive competence” might also help a person live into triple-digit years.
Lachs defines adaptive competence as the “ability to bounce back from stress.” He uses as an example his 109-year-old patient, Helen.
“You don’t get to be 109 without life hurling a few curveballs at you,” he said. “And [Helen] has had more than her share: bereavement, gender discrimination, medical issues. And after each, she dusts herself off and moves on.”
Research has proven Lachs’ theory. One of his colleagues undertook a long-term project studying people in their 50s and how their attitudes affect length of life. If they agreed with statements like, “things keep getting worse as I get older,” and “As you get older you are less useful,” they took a dirt nap 7 ½ years sooner than their positive-thinking cohorts.
I go to church with a woman much like Helen. She won’t give her age, but she must be in her late 80s or early 90s. She still works every day as a real estate agent. A couple of years ago, she fell flat on her face, bumped her head and skinned her knees while showing a house. She got up and brushed herself off. Within a couple of weeks her brain swelled and she was rushed to the emergency room where doctors drilled a couple of holes into her skull to release pressure. She worked a hard year at physical therapy, and now she’s back at work, healthy and happy. She loves to joke about the holes in her head.
If you want to live a long life, your attitude could make a difference.
What type of person are you? One who lets life’s every trouble get you down or one who dusts herself off and moves on? How does your faith play a role in your attitudes about life, living and the ups and downs that go with it?