August 2, 2010

A Real Fountain of Youth

At some point in time, everyone in this country has wondered about our health care system and how exactly a nation like ours has so consistently failed to provide adequate health care for all - heck, even most - of its citizens.  Allow me to pause here - this is not a political rant.  This is a story about the power of prevention.

At bene-fit, we believe that wellness is more than a diet, a training program, or a stress-relief class.  Wellness is is a lifestyle; something to be learned, developed, and maintained throughout the entire life span.  

Last night my partner and I visited his grandfather.  He is months away from turning 87, looks about 67 (minus the tufted white hair!) and likely is in the health condition of a man ten to twenty years his junior.  After marveling at his fitness throughout our visit, I broke down and asked him his secrets.  He smiled wisely and offered up the following tips, based solely on how he has lived his life.

"I'm Indian," he explained, "and I didn't wear shoes until I was 12 years old."  He swears this was how he avoided corns, bunions, and the other foot problems that plague even younger folks who are tempted by too-tight, stylish shoes.  "We didn't have much money, so we ate a mostly vegetarian diet," noting that meat was a special-occasion food to be enjoyed in small, reasonable portions (and shared among 12 brothers and sisters - talk about automatic portion control!). 

"Every night that I can remember, I sleep for seven hours," adding with a wink that there were, of course, nights he couldn't remember, but they were few and far between.  "I keep the mind busy," describing his younger days as a missionary and student of several languages, as well as his current life of writing his memoirs, learning the keyboard, tending his garden, and singing in the church choir.  

And as for that garden?  "Talk about organic," he exclaimed, "I've got the healthiest produce you can get outside of a legitimate farm!"   We walked off with a bag of his home-grown bounty ourselves - "giving good food away feels just as good as growing it," he promised.

One of the greatest tragedies of his older years was losing his wife of over 50 years just over a year ago.  "I don't give up," he said with a sigh, "I just use the time I have to remember her best."  A profoundly simple lesson on managing grief from a man who memorizes his favorite quotes from his favorite books and movies (his recent pick was a line from Elizabeth Taylor in The Deadliest Season) to recite when he feels down.

Lest we miss out on one of the strongest bene-fit beliefs, Grandpa is a strong proponent of exercise.  Every other day, he walks 3 miles assisted with walking sticks, and on the other days, he attends his local community center to do a moderate strength-training circuit - "the rotation," as he calls it - along with a shorter walk of 1-2 miles.  "This keeps me robust," he offers, "and helps keep the belly down," he says with a laugh. 

As for diet, besides growing much of his own food, he drinks red wine in moderation ("everything in moderation," he chuckled, "even moderation!") but eschews beer and hard liquor.  He enjoys spicy foods to boost his metabolism, but abides mainly by an alkaline/acid balanced diet to "keep the gastritis down."

Add to all this a lifetime of international travel, a steady marriage and family life with three kids, a strong faith and a positive outlook and I left our visit believing that I'd seen the fountain of youth - and it was 87 years old.  I hope you are as inspired as I was to maintain - or begin, it's never too late! - a lifetime of truly healthy habits.  Now that's finding your bene-fit!

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