Prescription for a Long Life

The oldest man in the world died on Sunday, June 8 in Manhattan. Alexander Imich was 111 years old. But he was not the oldest person to live. There are 67 women who remain living who are older than he. A 116-year-old Japanese woman, Misao Okawa, is the world’s oldest living person. The world’s oldest man now goes to Sakari Momoi, also of Japan, who was born just a day after Imich in 1903.

What factors contributed to Imich’s longevity?

You might think that he lived a life of relative ease. But no, he experienced intense hardship. He was born in Poland in 1903, fled Poland when the Nazis took over, survived a labor camp in Russia and relocated to the United States.

You might think he had strong social support that included close family ties. But no, his wife died in 1986, and they were childless, leaving him alone to care for himself.

Others would attribute his lengthy life to diet, exercise and good nutrition. He was described as an athlete at one time, and he had decreased appetite so this likely contributes to his health.

But what would Imich say about the secret to his long life? Imich himself states that he loved to learn. He had a great passion and curiosity for life. He was an educated man who held a doctorate in zoology, but his passion was investigating paranormal activity. He published his journal when he was 92. “I wanted to understand the universe and myself in it.” His curiosity kept him active in something he loved.

Whether we die at 111 or much earlier, Imich’s life gives us clues about how to live. Curiosity, a love of learning and passion are central to a meaningful life.

Studies have been done on happiness. Happiness is related to meaningful work, mutually caring friendships, and spiritual values such as love, forgiveness and optimism. Rather than hedonistic pleasure or immediate gratification, happiness is more a state of contentment than ecstacy. Happiness is independent of age, gender, race, education, income (above the poverty line). It is not related to physical beauty, fame or popularity. And it can be cultivated.

My husband made a statement that I’ve never forgotten. His advise for a satisfying life is to find something to do, someone to love, and something to strive for. That seems a good prescription for a long life.

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