Phillipston seniors give advice for healthy living and long life
In May we attended three 90 year anniversary parties. All live in Phillipston. All are healthy, independent, live in their own homes, still drive, enjoy full lives…and each had special birthday experiences.
- Tony Wagner energetically danced the polka, the music of his Polish heritage.
- Betty Davidson was escorted to her party in a police cruiser.
- Gerry Gariepy reminisced with two longtime friends.
Do they attribute their long lifespan to genetics, diet, good health care, vocations, religion, hobbies, or where they live?
Genetics does not necessarily play a role. Tony’s parents died between the ages of 60 and 70. Betty’s parents lived long into their 80s, but she is the first to live into their 90s. Gerry’s parents died between the ages of 60 and 70, before good cardiac treatments were available.
Diet, however, was not an important factor for these individuals; they eat well and none of them are overweight. Tony doesn’t follow a strict diet but, he says, “I’m careful to maintain my weight. I do a lot of physical activity and eat nutritious meals.”
Betty said, “I haven’t lived that long eating healthy. Don’t try to get me started now.”
Gerry said: “My wife is trying to keep me on a heart healthy diet, but I have snacks in my workshop that wouldn’t qualify.”
Health care is rated as important. Early detection of problems is the key to successful treatment. These three people have regular check-ups.
Tony goes to the Veterans Administration for health care and learns through blood tests that he needs to take supplements. Betty and Gerry were successfully treated for cancer and heart issues.
Vocational choices make the difference. Looking forward to the day’s work reduces stress and brings joy and satisfaction. Tony said, “I’m the luckiest guy on earth.” He called his job at Electric Boat “engineering heaven.” Betty said, “I did real estate work at Tousignant Realtors Inc. for 37 years and loved it.” Gerry said: “I never had a bad day at Norton Company where I worked in diamond abrasives. I was looking forward to going to work.
Religion has been an important part of their life and they try to live the good lessons of their faith. “My faith is built on love and caring,” Tony said.
Betty said, “Going to church makes you feel good about the way you live. You know what’s right and what’s wrong. I listen to gospel music every night when I go to bed and it puts me to sleep.”
Gerry said, “The Church has been a big part of my life since high school. I try to follow the teachings of Jesus.
Hobbies are fulfilling, brain-boosting, and keep a person from getting bored. All three spend a lot of time reading. Tony reads books on economics and business, builds stone walls, does gardening and takes care of his wife who has difficulty moving around. He said: “I have become a very good cook. Betty reads religious books, likes to garden and do crossword puzzles. Gerry reads history and aviation books, does DIY work around the house and loves to travel.
Where you live can give a person a sense of peace, and Phillipston provided all three of them. Tony said: “It’s quiet here, a good place to live during this time of life. I’m grateful for my good neighbours.” Betty said: “I like it here. It’s a small town and my family is nearby. My family was involved in town politics. It was stressful so I didn’t go in there, but I still vote.” Gerry also likes living here. He said, “The people are friendly and welcoming, and the city has a quiet beauty.
Good and Bad of Old Age: They all said coping with medical issues was a bad part of getting older, and Gerry added that it’s hard to lose friends. (When we were young we attended weddings, when we were old we attended funerals.)
Tony said: “One good thing about getting older is that I feel like I’m on vacation 365 days a year. I have time to do things that I couldn’t do, like take courses at Monty Tech.” Betty said, “I love life. I love spending time with my family and friends.” Gerry said: “I can spend more time with friends, I can spend the day doing whatever I want, having more time to read and travel.”
Their words of wisdom: Tony said, “I love mentoring young people. I believe in transmitting kindness. Keep a positive attitude. Be grateful. Spend some time alone each day to reflect. Betty said, “Go to church and carry on.” Gerry said, “Live by the Boy Scout slogan – Take a good turn every day. If everyone followed the Scout Oath and Law, the world would have no problems.”
After interviewing these nonagenarians, it was clear that doing good deeds, staying physically fit, doing things that stimulate the brain, having activities that bring pleasure, and being at peace with yourself and the world contribute to a long fulfilling life.
Carole Gariepy is a Phillipston resident and author of “Dragging Gerry around the World” and “Why Go There?”