ColumnistsGolden Years

Prepare to Work, Live a Lot Longer

The formula for long, productive life — work, diet and exercise

By Harold Miller

Senior couple in the parkMy dear friend Joe Laforte died recently at the ripe old age of 97.

He was the president of our condominium association in Florida and a former top executive of IBM. Laforte had retired at 55 and after 42 years of retirement still received his pension and social security, the combination of which produced a comfortable yearly income and happy retirement.

However, this scenario will no longer be sustainable for most today because privately-owned businesses have been forced to eliminate pensions and, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the combined Social Security trust funds — one for disability, one for retirement — as well as Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund, will begin eating into their reserves this year. They are projected to run dry by 2026.

The good news is that most 55-plussers will not be able to retire at 65 and consequently will live longer, happier and healthier lives if they choose to enact the three basic factors of work, diet and exercise.

Many health-care advocates claim that this generation — due to advances in medical science and knowledge — can easily live beyond the century mark (my personal goal) if they follow these rules.

We have long reported in the pages of this magazine that inactivity in retirement is a killer. The main killers are diabetes, heart disease, obesity and mental illness. Health care specialists have reported that presently 50 percent of those 85 and older will contract Alzheimer’s disease.

When the time comes to leave your job — either by mandated retirement or need to escape from stressful activity — move to other forms of physical and mental activity that you enjoy.

When it became time for me to turn over the reins of our family business to my sons 18 years ago, I opted to become a journalist and author. This, in addition to managing personal properties and investments, allowed me to continue working on things I enjoyed doing and at a more relaxed pace.

To quote a portion of an authorless poem titled “Happiness” sent by my daughter Marcia, “In the pursuit of beloved labor, the busy days pass cheerfully employed, and the still nights in peaceful sleep. For labor born of desire is not drudgery but mainly play.”

It is a shocking fact that half of America’s population is overweight and half of that is obese. Half of all our meals are consumed at hamburger joints and other fast-food restaurants where fatty foods reign supreme.

Parents are not overseeing what their children eat and apparently adults don’t care that our nation has drifted into self-indulgence — diet wise and otherwise. All you have to do is walk through the aisles at Walmart to confirm this sad situation.

We have no ready solutions to this problem other than to advise parents as well as adults to engage a nutritionist. Simply going on a diet does not cure obesity.

A person must change their lifestyle and eat to live rather than live to eat.

The third and most important factor for a long, healthy life is exercise. Of most importance is to choose forms of exercise that you can enjoy. My wife Janet walks around our neighborhood for about a mile, works out at the gym, and swims several times a week. Likewise, I bicycle, work out at the gym, and swim several times a week. Our doctors tell us that neither of us would be here at our stage of life without our exercise regime.

One of the greatest rewards of living a long life is to be around to enjoy the fruits of our labor which includes interacting with our children (the original form of a family’s social security), plus 19 grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren, so far.