Must be Something in the Water

Today I was doing my usual walk in the neighborhood, and I turned down my adjacent street, as usual. Some years ago, when I had dogs, I would usually stop at the house nearest the river and talk with Margaret, an elderly widow. We’d sit outside and the subjects ranged far and wide.

She’d talk about occasionally seeing the ghost of her husband in the house. Was he checking up on her?

Another thing I learned from her was the surprising number of people who have lived on this street since the homes were new.

Normally with our California suburbs growing like weeds, that wouldn’t be a surprise, but these homes were built in the mid-50s. And another surprising thing – many people up and down this street – about 1/4 mile long, know each other.

In many suburbs, many neighbors know very little of each other. Nor do they want to.

So this morning, I turn the corner and I see this woman, obviously advanced in years, on all 4s pulling weeds in the lawn.

Since there was a slight drizzle, something we haven’t seen in some years, I have to compliment her on her dedication to gardening. I learned that she was only about 3 years older than me.

I have maintained that as many of us have grown older, we still view ourselves as 20 or 30. It is only when we look at a picture of ourselves do we wonder what the hell happened?

Anyway, she laughs and then says that it isn’t even her home – she lives across the street and likes to help the live-in 90+ year old woman here.

I was surprised that anyone in her 90s would still be living – alone – in her home and she mentioned 4 others – all 100 or over – still living at home. She mentioned Mary *, at 102, who just quit working for the state at 100 – she was on the local news with the Governor. She then rattled off the names of the other 3 other centenarians* down this street.

I jokingly suggested that there must be something in the water just for this street – and she said, no they all just take daily walks – most with their walkers.

Even today, with our advanced medical care, the odds of living to be 100 are pretty slim, although it is far better for women.

…According to the U.S. Census Special Report on Centenarians, in 2010, there were 53,364 centenarians in the United States or 1.73 per 10,000 people in the total population.

….While life expectancy has risen overall, women continue to live longer than men, a trend that is reinforced in current data on centenarians. Women make up 82.8 percent of individuals age 100 years and older while men make up just 17.2 percent.

Which reminds me of a joke, but I don’t want to run off the subject…

Marie and I had a good conversation, and I mentioned that perhaps more than walking accounts for this statistically unusual occurrence.

I have mentioned to others in the past that in the last half of one’s life, what you did physically in the first half probably has a great deal to do with longevity.

Up through the 60s, my Dad was a typical 60s smoker – probably went through a pack a day. His father died on a Los Angeles freeway at the age of 59.

They think he had a heart attack when he ran right into an overpass abutment.

One day in the late 60s, my father decided that he would just quit smoking. He had a will like a steel trap – if he decided to do something, that was it. No nicotine patches for him, and no gradually weaning off those cigarettes.

Just do it.

And in subsequent years, every January for a day or so he would try another cigarette or 2 and then stop after the day….just to prove to himself that he could still do it.

Anyway, he lived to be 95. Which must have been a weird feeling, knowing you surpassed your own father by 36 years.

Had he stayed with the pack-a-day habit, would he have lived this long?

Winston Churchill was a daily cigar smoker right up to his death at 91. I believe he liked a glass or 2 of scotch every day, too.

All I can say is that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”

I think there is a genetic component to all of this, with the body’s immune system. But what do I know?

Anyway, I think that is an unusual street.

** Marie mentioned the names, but I have forgotten. I have ordered a bottle of Prevagin.

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