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Thursday, September 7, 2023

Ikigai

My 95-year-old grandfather is a former cardiologist—his 8 'non-negotiables' for a long, happy life

By Mika CribbsSeptember 7, 2023
My grandfather, Reizo, is 95 years old and starts every day with a walk around Osaka.

My grandfather, Reizo, is 95 years old and starts every day with a walk around Osaka.

Photo: Mika Cribbs

This summer, I visited my 95-year-old grandfather in his hometown of Osaka, Japan. I wanted to spend more time with him and learn about the activities that keep him so healthy and happy.

A retired cardiologist, his creative, community-driven outlook and purposeful way of living have always inspired me. He’s a great example of how to age gracefully.

Here are his eight non-negotiables for a long and happy life:

1. He takes an early morning walk.

My grandparents are early risers. By 5 a.m., they’ve already begun their morning stroll. They usually walk for 30 minutes to an hour, and get in at least 7,000 steps.

Whether they’re hiking mountainous trails to the Minoh Falls or doing laps around the Ikeda neighborhood, my grandparents’ use their walks to start their days from a place of strength.

2. He does an intentional workout.

After his walk, he does a tailored workout routine. He starts by stretching, then does a series of strength training and balancing exercises.

He carefully chooses different exercises every day based on his abilities and needs to ensure he stays active without straining his body.

3. He connects with loved ones on social media.

After he completes his workout, he pulls out his laptop and logs into Facebook and Instagram.

My grandfather keeps up with his children and grandchildren, even those of us who live in the U.S.

Photo: Mika Cribbs

Studies have found that social isolation of older adults results in high rates of loneliness, particularly among older men. 

My grandfather has my grandmother to boost his emotional well-being. But he also maintains strong ties to people in his global community, including his grandchildren in the U.S., through this time online.

4. He writes in his blog.

Since 2014, he has spent a few minutes almost every day writing his thoughts, experiences and insights on his blog. It now has well over 1,000 posts.

It’s easy to lose our drive when we don’t see immediate results, but my grandfather’s blog is a culmination of a few minutes of writing spanned over several years. It’s a good reminder of the value of small, consistent actions.

5. He creates art.

My grandfather is an accomplished artist. Every day he sits down and draws his self-portrait. As he carefully sketches each line, shading and detail, he uses the time to get a better understanding of himself

Drawing self-portraits provides my grandfather wtih quiet time to reflect on what’s going on in his head and heart.

Photo: Mika Cribbs

In a world where we are often on the go, seeing him take the the time to slow down and look inward has motivated me to do the same.

6. He makes time for new hobbies.

During the pandemic, my grandfather started gardening after being inspired by the flowers and plants he saw on his walks.

And at my grandmother’s suggestion, he started playing the recorder, a woodwind musical instrument, because he thought it would help with his breathing and swallowing.

My grandparents were married in 1958 and have been growing old together ever since.

Photo: Mika Cribbs

It’s never too late to learn new skills. I love how my grandfather remains open-minded and adventurous, always seeking novel experiences to fuel his curiosity — and is never afraid to fail.

7. He takes multiple naps.

After all that exercise, he makes sure to stop and refuel several times per day in order to maintain his energy

He usually takes his first half-hour nap in the morning, around 8 or 9 a.m., and often falls asleep again in the afternoons while reading.

His self-awareness to know when to take these breaks has been a major contributor to his longevity.

8. He eats indulgent meals.

My grandfather is incredibly active, but he also has a real love for life’s pleasures, including savoring red meats, cheeses and drinking fine wines.

However, on the healthier side, my grandmother always serves a variety of vegetables in her homecooked Japanese meals, like her delicious curry.

While Western norms might label some of his dietary choices as unhealthy, his exceptional well-being at 95 is a testament to the fact that many different factors contribute to longevity, and balance is perhaps the most important.

My grandparents end every meal with hot tea, which aids digestion and calms the body.

Photo: Mika Cribbs

In Japan, we have a concept called “ikigai,” or “sense of purpose.” There is no single precise set of instructions for good health and happiness. The most important thing is to find out what your purpose looks like, and like my grandfather, pursue that path with care, intention and joy.
 

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams