Speaking as someone with more experience with Japanese culture and customs than most post-WW2 Americans, I have often said we could learn a thing or two from Japan. How to enjoy the elder years is apparently one of those things. Excerpt:
We are quick to attribute good eating habits and exercise as keys to ageing gracefully. But what about the question of never losing the competitive spirit? A healthy rivalry, whether against a near-aged competitor or your younger self, combined with the hope of achievement, seem to play an important part.
Certainly that’s the case for Yuichiro Miura.
At 86, alpinist and professional skier Miura, is another senior citizen who has celebrity-like status both in and out of Japan. In his 40s he attempted to ski down Mount Everest with a parachute on his back, a practice known as speed riding, to decelerate his descent. His feat was documented in the film “The man who skied down Everest”, which won an Academy Award for best documentary in 1975.
At 70 years old, he returned to Everest and became the oldest person in the world to summit. That record was broken when Miura again made the climb at 75, and then again at the age of 80. In early 2019, Miura attempted to climb, then ski down Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America. At Plaza Colera located around 6,000m above sea level, Miura was ordered to stop by his doctor, who had accompanied him, due to concerns about the risk of heart failure triggered by the high altitude. Once back in Japan, Miura explained during a press conference that he decided to accept the doctor’s orders because he still hopes for another attempt. He is now working towards his goal to summit Everest again at 90.
The whole thing reminds me of the Old Man, who enjoyed vigorous activity and stayed healthy and active until only days before his passing at age 94. He maintained sixty acres of timber into his eighties. His last year on that place, at age 85, he cut, split and stacked five cords of firewood, by himself.
It seems pretty obvious that plenty of activity, and activity you enjoy to boot, is good for a long life. It’s important to have fun, and I’m trying to live up to that; I’d much rather get my exercise walking in the woods than walking on a treadmill, and sometimes I get in some fishing or bird hunting into the bargain.
The best life is the one you enjoy. If you enjoy yourself and keep busy, then it stands to reason that would be good for your health – physical and emotional. That is the pattern the Japanese folks described in this article follow. That’s what I try to do. You should too.