Archive for March 10th, 2009

About 25 years ago, an elderly gentleman came to my office to ask why his product was no longer on our approved list. When he handed me his business card, I noticed that his name ( Kellogg) was the same as that of the manufacturer of the product.When I remarked upon the “coincidence”, he replied that it was not a coincidence and that he himself had started the company some 50 years earlier ! Futher conversation revealed that he was 94 years old and still went to the office daily though he had reduced his responsibilities. Unbelievable ! He was nattily dressed ,sharp as a tack and looked like a man 25 or 30 years younger.He passed away a few months later after a long, productive life, doing the things he wanted to do right till the very end.

As we grow older, such stories are a source of inspiration since that is what we would wish for ourselves…to be healthy, active and productive as long as we live. There are not a few such examples. For instance, the Australian writer Jon Cleary ( author of the Scobie Malone mysteries) and champion jockey turned mystery writer Dick Francis  have continued to write well into their eighties. Then there is the Manhattan socialite, active in charity work , whose name I can’t recall but who , when she turned 80, wrote an article about how the previous 10 years were the best of her life. Ten years later, when she turned 90, she wrote another article about how her eighties were even better !

However the best role model for those interested in living long , productive lives is a Japanese physician Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara who is still practising , though he is 97 going on 98.He sees patients at St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo ,teaches at St.Luke’s College of Nursing and is on the Board of Trustees of both institutions. Since the age of 75, he has published 150 books , one of which , ” Living Long ,Living Good” , has sold more than 1.2 million copies.These are some of his precepts for a long and healthy life:

Energy comes from feeling good, not eating well or sleeping a lot. When children are having fun, they often forget to eat or sleep. As adults , we should keep the same attitude.

If you would live long, control your weight. There are no overweight old people ! For breakfast, Dr. Hinohara has coffee, a glass of milk and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil added to it. Lunch is milk and cookies — or nothing, if he is busy. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice and , twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.

Always plan ahead. Keep busy.Dr. Hinohara’s schedule is all booked up until 2014 !

No need to ever retire but, if you must, put it off as long as you can.The retirement age of 65 was set earlier when people did not live much beyond it.

Share what you know. The Doctor gives some 150 lectures a year, speaking for 60 minutes to 90 minutes , standing , to stay strong. Sometimes he addresses 100 elementary school kids  and  other times , up to 4500 business people.

To stay healthy, always take the stairs and carry your own stuff. The doctor himself takes the stairs two at a time !

Doctors can’t cure everyone. If a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask him if he would have his spouse or children have the same procedure.

Pain is mysterious; having fun is the best way to forget it. When a child with a toothache gets absorbed in a game, he forgets his pain. You can be the same way.

Don’t be crazy about amassing material things. Remember, you don’t know when your number is up and you can’t take it with you.

 Science alone can’t cure or help people. Science lumps us all together, but illness is individual. Each person is unique, and diseases are connected to their hearts. To know the illness and help people, we need liberal and visual arts, not just medical ones.

Find a role model and aim to achieve even more than they could ever do. Dr. Hinohara”s father was one of his heroes.When he is stumped, he asks himself how they would deal with the problem.

It’s wonderful to live long. Dr. Hinohara says “Until one is 60 years old, it is easy to work for one’s family and to meet one’s goals. But in our later years, we should strive to contribute to society.” Since the age of 65, he has  worked as a volunteer and still puts in 18 hours, seven days a week and loves every minute of it.

Dr. Hinohara says that one of his inspirations is Robert Browning’s poem ” Abt Vogler”, which his father used to read to him.” It encourages us to make big art, not small scribbles. It says to try to draw a circle so huge that we can never finish it while we are alive. All we can see is an arch: the rest is beyond our vision but it is there in the distance.”

So , there you have it , Dr. Hinohara’s  secrets to a long and healthy life. No doubt, we have heard many of these same precepts uttered by others. One thing which was somewhat different was the importance that Dr. Hinohara attaches to having fun. The difficulty lies in being able to follow these rules on a consistent basis. For one thing , I know that I , as a foodie , would never be able to stick to such a spartan diet , even for a week! Ah, well, I guess I’ll have to settle for living to age 80 !

( Much of the information about Dr. Hinohara was taken from an article by Judith Kawaguchi that appeared in the Japan Times.)

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