TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER: ‘Longevity Project’ fun read for future senior citizens

Life is good. When you reflect on the years you’ve lived, you’re content. Sure, there have been times when everything seemed lower than a worm’s belly but, overall, you’ve been blessed by friends, family and happiness.
Life is good. So good, in fact, that you’d kinda like to stick around for more of it. But is it too late to live long and prosper? In the new book “The Longevity Project” by Howard S. Friedman, PhD, and Leslie R. Martin, PhD, you’ll see how your past influences the future you’ve got left.
In the fall of 1921, Stanford University psychologist Dr. Lewis Terman embarked on a research project that was destined to outlive him. With the help of his colleagues and that of his subjects’ parents, teachers, and later their spouses, Terman hoped to study 1,500 gifted schoolchildren, long-term, in an effort to understand why some people live longer than others.
In 1990, when Friedman and Martin were professor and grad student, respectively, they stumbled upon Terman’s research and realized it was exactly what they needed for their own study on longevity.
Terman began his project when the children were young, and by the time Friedman and Martin reconstructed his findings to fit modern statistics, most of the “children” were dead. But the thousands of bits of information they left was astonishing.
To live a long life, must you go early to bed, early to rise, eat your veggies and exercise? In a way, say the authors. The single best indication of longevity was conscientiousness. Conscientious people tend to take better care of themselves.
Hanging out with friends might be fun, but it doesn’t guarantee a long life; in fact, social children tended to party more, which lead to poor health. Worrying is sometimes good, but catastrophizers, generally speaking, had a high rate of suicide. Parental divorce had more of an effect on longevity than did one’s own divorce. Hard work doesn’t just seem to make life longer. Being feminine (for either sex) was indicative of longevity and marriage is good – if you’re a man, and as long as you don’t become a widower.
And that silly grin you’ve got?
Just stop it. Happiness has nothing to do with long life.
Think you’ve already blown your chance for near-immortality? Not so: Grab this fascinating book before you get discouraged. As it turns out, you may be able to overcome your past by changing your future.
Authors Friedman and Martin wipe aside those old wives’ tales we’ve all heard, replacing them with useful, intriguing results from an almost-100-year-old study. Not only is that a fun look back at the social mores of times past (check out the boy-girl stereotypes), it also helps make sense of the health advice-blast we seem to receive nearly daily.
Tweak your regimen here, stop doing things there, adjust your thinking, read this book, and learn how to live to a ripe old age. For any future Senior Citizen wanna-be, “The Longevity Project” is pretty good.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.

Terri Schlichenmeyer