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Here’s how to enjoy a health span that lasts as long as your lifespan

Book Review: Happy to 102: The Best Kept Secrets to a Long and Happy Life by Kathy N. Johnson, James H. Johnson, Lily Sarafan

Happy to 102 is written by a highly qualified team specializing in geriatrics, senior care and psychology. While it’s a perfect gift for the centenarians in your life, its added benefit is the wake-up call to all of us, both about caring for seniors and becoming the best senior we can be.

As each generation lives longer, the quality of those extra years requires good health. Without it, we lose our ability to care for ourselves and, thus, our independence.

The authors pose an interesting question in Happy to 102.

At age 70, if you knew you would live to 102, what would you do differently?

Believe me, if I knew age 70 still left me with 30 percent more life to live, I would do as the authors state: concentrate on personal health and safety.

This book offers the opportunity for a frank discussion about the dichotomy between the value seniors place on their savings, as compared to the value they place on themselves. Perhaps people now in their senior years have been too focused on living frugally in order to leave a legacy to their children. While most parents want the best for their children, we need to do the same for our parents. When it comes to senior care, a family’s decision to find the least expensive care is the opposite of what our parents did for us all their lives; they gave us the best care, education, housing and opportunities for a rich life.

The concept of a structure to plan for care of seniors wasn’t necessary a generation ago, when friends and family were nearby, with vibrant communities, public transportation, and shops. Yet, aging isn’t the only determinant of our need for a society that is willing to support its people. There are similar needs for households with two working parents, or a single parent who needs our help.

So the authors advise: “Independent living does not necessarily mean doing everything yourself: It means being in control of how and when things are done. From birth to old age, we live and thrive in interdependent communities; there is no justifiable reason for modifying our lifestyle drastically just because we require some personal assistance in our later years. Make a Declaration of Interdependence for yourself and for the seniors in your life."

From these highly qualified authors the adage: "You are what you eat" converts to a startling realization about the relationship of food to aging. They cover a holistic lifestyle program based on the well-known Okinawa diet that keeps centenarians in Japan thriving. Their supportive tips include a list of seven key super foods, and you’ll be pleased to see that chocolate makes the list… after the other helpful foods, such as salmon, nuts, carrots, flaxseed and blueberries. Did you know that eggs contain almost all of the vitamins, except Vitamin C, that the human body requires for health? Full information on the authors' health regime is in Chapter 11, covering the Balanced Care Method of healthy aging.

Chapter Seven is a reminder for all of us to get moving. Staying active and making exercise a lifelong habit is essential to maintain bone density, flexibility and balance. Exercise also eases stress, helps avoid depression, and provides an improved quality of life.

Authors Johnson, Johnson and Sarafan stress it is time for a new way of thinking. With our longer life spans, we have to think beyond thrift and low-cost senior warehousing, to a long life with sustained productivity and enjoyment.

“The senior years should not be an excuse for anything, let alone about abandoning life.” … “In fact, the more natural course of life is to preserve our independence at any age.”

Happy to 102 includes helpful sections on how to know when a senior needs help. The book ends with a useful list of “102 Ways to Live Happy to 102.” Most are actually things we should do now, at any age. The book is published by in Palo Alto, CA.

About Helen Gallagher

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