What really matters in life?

I’ve been interested in living long and well for many years.  Longevity runs in my family, but so does dementia and it is by far my preference to live long and well with my memories intact.  

In my quest to keep my mind sharp for as long as possible, I routinely listen to The Drive Podcast, with host Dr Peter Attia, a self-admitted, over-the-top-in-everything-he-does type of guy.   

He currently hyper-focuses his over-the-topness on understanding the factors that impact longevity.  (If you decide to listen to his podcast, be forewarned, they are lengthy and full of med-speak.  I love it – he speaks my language.)

The first time I heard his brilliant concept – The Centenarian Olympics – I stopped what I was doing and listened, pen in hand, excitedly waiting for a set of criteria.  The Centenarian Olympics, fab idea, what are the activities?  What do I need to do?  But, to my immense disappointment, no answer was offered up. 

But no answer was offered up for good reason –  it’s a phenomenon that is totally unique to the individual.  What I want to be able to do at 100, is likely quite different from what you might want to be able to do at 100.  

The centenarian olympics focus on strength and exercise (it is an olympics after all) mainly because when it comes to aging, in most individuals the body fails first.  He asks two great questions we could all ponder to our longevity advantage.

  1. If I live to 100, what do I physically have to be able to do to be satisfied with my life? and 
  2. What are the physical tasks that would approximate those things? 

I love this approach because it starts with the premise ‘to be satisfied with my life.’  How important is that to figure out?  

At 60 something, I’m already experiencing some of ‘the body fails first’ realities – broken bones, muscle loss, and achy joints to name a few.  

Assuming I want to live to 100, what do I want to be able to do to be satisfied with my life when I get there?  

  • I want to be able to listen to music and participate in conversations.  
  • I want to be able to play my cello, however poorly.  
  • I want to be able to get up off the couch (if not the floor) without assistance.  
  • I want to be able to walk outside, year round, without fear of falling.  
  • I want to be able to laugh with friends of 60 plus years.  
  • I want to be able to read books and get lost in thought.  
  • I want to be able to live independently, though I will let someone else do the cooking, cleaning and yard work.

To the second question, what do I have to be able to do to approximate those tasks?  Hmm.  Harder question.  For starters, I should check my hearing, cause I feel like I’m already missing out on conversations, and I will definitely need a better sound system. 

Strength – wise, I need to have the arm, wrist and grip strength to play cello, the leg strength to get up off the floor, and the core strength and balance to walk in the snow. 

I will need to keep connections with my friends and encourage them to live for another 30 or so years along with me. 

I will need to keep reading and writing and thinking.  

So you can see why there is not a universal task list for the centenarian olympics.  It’s about you figuring out what is important for you so that you can start to do whatever it is you need to do now, so that you can do whatever it is you want to do later.  

Having said that, and insist upon this from yourself – whatever it is you need to do now, LOVE it and ENJOY it.  Because, ultimately, it is the journey to 100 that matters.