Advice from an expert: how to be young while old

by Len Lear
Posted 1/14/22

Now I am not 2,000 years old, although my right hip feels like it in the morning. But I am almost 82, which in dog years is 574, so I am definitely on my way.

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Advice from an expert: how to be young while old

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I just finished reading “All About Me,” the wonderful just-published autobiography of Mel Brooks, the 95-year-old comedy genius who has written and directed many comic movies including “Young Frankenstein,” my own favorite funny movie ever. 

Brooks and his comedy buddy Carl Reiner also created the greatest comedy album of all time, “The 2000 Year Old Man” (1960), which I listened to so many times that the record got arthritis. In it Reiner says: “You must have had many wives in 2,000 years. Do you remember them all?” Brooks answers, “One I remember well. Shirley. A redhead. I can never forget that red hair. She had it all!” Reiner then asks, “In 2,000 years how many children did you have?” Brooks’ reply: “I have had more than 42,000 children. And NOT ONE comes to visit me. But you know how kids are...”  

Now I am not 2,000 years old, although my right hip feels like it in the morning. But I am almost 82, which in dog years is 574, so I am definitely on my way. I mention this because the editor of the Local asked me to write this article about how to be happy while old. I qualify for this assignment because I am the old man of the Local. (And she tells me she’s impressed by how happy I am.) 

Now you can find suggestions on aging well from articles in magazines and press releases from any medical institution - exercise daily,  don’t smoke, drink in moderation, avoid stress as much as possible, eat lots of veggies and fruit and little or no meat. (The person writing that press release is probably 50 pounds overweight.)

But everyone has seen those recommendations over and over again. So here are some from me you may not have seen: 

  • Stop with all social media, which I avoid like a poisonous snake. Thanks to social media, It would take the jaws-of-life to pry a cell phone out of the hands of a person under 30 years old. And the next time a woman sends me 400 photos of her spectacularly precious grandchildren eating breakfast or playing in the backyard, I will only look at the first 10. Volunteering for a worthwhile cause also helps keep one young, so I am thinking of starting an AA-type of nonprofit organization for people who want to break their addiction to Facebook.
  • Do not tell people about your aches and pains and personal problems. Twenty-five percent of the people you tell do not care, and the other 75 percent are glad you have them.
  • Singing is great, too. I love to sing, which keeps one young. I hate to brag, but I can hold a note longer than Chase National Bank. It may be off-key, out of tune and not necessarily in English, but I can hold it.
  • Don't listen to experts. I told the dentist my teeth were getting yellow. He told me to wear a brown necktie … I asked a bartender last week for “a double.” He brought out a guy who looked like me. Ba-da-boom.
  • Read the book “Anatomy of an Illness,” published in 1979 by Norman Cousins, then the editor of Saturday Review magazine. Reading it was more fun than eating watermelon in a rented car. In the mid-'70s Cousins was diagnosed with an irreversible illness and was told he did not have long to live. Cousins proceeded to watch comedy movies by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy for hours every day. Instead of moping, he was laughing almost non-stop. And his tests and X-rays kept getting better and better. He made a complete recovery, was released from the hospital and lived for 14 more years until he died in 1990 at age 75.

Maybe that is why comic George Burns lived to be 100; Betty White, 18 days short of 100; “Professor” Irwin Corey, 102; Bob Hope, 100; Carl Reiner, 98, Sid Caesar, 92, Imogene Coca, 93, Henny Youngman, 92, whose most famous one-liner was: “My doctor said I was so sick that he gave me just six months to live. I told him, 'But doc, I cannot pay your bill.' So he gave me another six months.”

  • Do not watch the 11 o'clock news. Way too depressing. Since I stopped watching it last September, my skin has cleared up.
  • And most importantly, do not think the sun comes up just to hear you crow.

Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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