I know that certain words fail to hold the weight they once did: Amazing, fantastic, awesome, fascinating. However these are all words that bear weight in describing this book, The Longevity Project by Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D. and Leslie R. Martin, Ph.D. In the early 1920s Dr. Terman began studying young children from middle class families and the data collected over those ensuing decades provided astounding findings. The data collected in Dr. Terman’s lifetime has been analyzed in various ways by the authors to provide answers to how and why certain people live to a ripe old age up into their late 90s and early 100s and how and why others fail to reach 65.
I picked up this book because the women on both sides of my family live to be in their 90s while the men pass away around their mid 60s and I have learned a tremendous amount about aging and what lifestyle choices lead to ones longevity. I also learned about something that makes me feel so much better about myself: Awful hand-writing is a sign of intelligence and many of the Terman participants who lived long lives never overcame their terrible hand-writing despite accomplishing so many other things in life. You should thank your lucky stars you’ve only seen the typed version of my writing, not the hand-written version or else you would not even bother reading this blog, I promise you.
Other very interesting and noteworthy lessons learned: Many of the ideas trotted out by the media and health experts to the rest of us are not necessarily true. Happy-go-lucky people and having a less stressful life does not prolong longevity. If you are a worrier you may live a long time provided you act productively on those worries to improve your health. Also, taking on challenging jobs or tasks and being proud of them is another key to longevity. However, taking on challenging jobs and tasks and feeling like a failure ought to signal to you to change your path because it may shorten your life after all.
Despite the fact that women did not typically hold jobs or careers in the time period of these subjects Dr. Terman did follow women who found careers anyway and uncovered that women (and men) in socially interactive careers lived the longest. Women who did not work but were involved in their community lived long lives. There is even a subject of whether having more feminine characteristics lends itself to longevity and I think the chapter is fascinating and illuminating in so many ways.
For men, the proud over-achievers who had stable relationships with their wives lived longest. They did not necessarily have to be active in their community or have socially interactive jobs so long as they had a supportive spouse to live a very long life just as women are prone to do.
All aspects of these subjects’ lives were studied: How well they did in school and with friends, their home life, their hobbies. As they aged, Dr. Terman asked about their satisfaction with their career, their romantic partners, and how physically active they were and what hobbies they maintained or discovered.
I cannot possibly capture all there is to learn in this book but I urge all of you to read it as it is fascinating, amazing, and illuminating. You will learn that you do not have to change your life drastically to prolong life, simply adopt some healthier habits without having to visit the gym regularly or giving up your challenging career. If you enjoyed this review, please check out a copy of The Longevity Project by Howard S. Friedman Ph.D. and Leslie R. Martin Ph.D. at your local library, purchase a copy at your local book-store or go on-line to purchase a copy at:
Thanks always for reading, please stop in again next week…