By Carolyn Kirsch
Longevity – most of us want that in our lives. I have been thinking about it quite a bit lately both because my 71st birthday is quickly approaching and because of the prevalence of individuals currently in my world who have attained their eighth and ninth decades.
My husband and I have noted the passing of a friend in her 70th year and a man in his 80s. A friend’s husband passed on after more than a decade of cancer. Another difficult loss was that of a young man in his early 40s. So we have had, within, the last year, occasions in which we are face to face with our mortality.
Today, however, I am thinking of longevity as I read the obituary of a 98-year-old neighbor who lived alone a few doors from us for the past half-dozen years. I did not know the gentleman, but knew of him through another neighbor. I knew he was close to 100 years old and I often noted the visitors he had as they parked near our house.
We live in an area that, I believe, has an unusually high number of people who achieve longevity. The first house we bought in our neighborhood was owned by a woman in her 90s. Our neighbors two doors down were a great couple who lived to be in their upper 80s. Our next-door neighbor at our current home lived into her early 90s.
We live by the beautiful Niagara River; maybe its continual, usually soothing, constant presence has something to do with this longevity for our neighbors. All of the people I have mentioned lived within a one-block area. Then there are those nonagenerians who are in our social world, but do not live near us.
There is the 94-year-old WWII veteran I see twice a month at a food pantry where I volunteer. He walks straight up and unassisted and always has a big smile on his face. He happily told me about the three-day birthday celebrations he and his family would enjoy the weekend of the big birthday. Perhaps the most extraordinary couple currently leaving us all wanting to give them congratulations as “power couple” of the year award are my good friend’s parents. This summer they will celebrate birthdays in the 94-year-old range and in three days their 76th wedding anniversary will arrive.
Recently he suffered a heart attack and had some very bad days of hospitalization. Then he rallied, went to rehab for a few days and, with current events what they are, thought it prudent to return home from there before his facility was quarantined. The last word received is he is doing well at home.
For longevity of life, longevity of relationships is probably key. The psychologists tell us that and it seems pretty clear that the people I have written about here excel at strong family relationships.
Not all of us are gifted with many caring family members in spite of our desire for them. Sometimes that almost seems a roll of the dice, but some people also create their own “families” of caring supporters by being one themselves. I hope I can keep the longevity of my relationships for many years to come. Another important factor is the longevity of our hopes and dreams.
I think the quickest way in which to feel old is to stop dreaming, stop planning for new adventures. Yes, the dreams may change as the years go by and maybe must be modified, but as long as we continue to hold them close, they can keep us young in spirit.
Carolyn Kirsch, of Tonawanda, stays young through a positive frame of mind.