Lisa’s Turn: Henry’s Secret is More Than Great Genes

Teach a centenarian about your website and you can kiss your blog goodbye.

Henry’s really getting into blogging (especially all the adoring feedback.)  It’s wonderful to see him open to new things (that’s just one of his secrets to longevity:  flexibility) but there’s more I’d like to add.  That’s why I’m blogging today.  It will give Henry a chance to watch some NFL exhibition play, and allow me get in a few words.  I’m not nearly as adorable as Henry, so I’ll try to keep this interesting.

As for genes, there’s no question Henry’s got them, and he’s got them good.  His DNA is being studied.  See for details.  He’s even got a 105 year-old pen pal  from this study.  They recently began communicating via email.  Next thing they’ll be tweeting and liking each other on Facebook.  (What a great change from reality TV!  Real people talking about real things that affect all of us!)

Henry impresses everyone, and for good reason.  When my husband, Bob, Henry and I took Southwest #3579 from Reno to LAX on July 18, 2012, take a look at what happened:  100th birthday party in flight!  That “birthday cake” Henry’s holding is made from a roll of toilet paper.  Those folks at Southwest are so creative!


What I’d like to share is that even while being trounced by life, Henry is willing to take a helping hand to get back on his feet and remain as independent as possible.  This is an important key, in my opinion, to longevity and living well.  Genes are impressive, but living among others and trusting they’ll help you is something I don’t see enough of in our communities, nation and world.  Our two presidential candidates are spending a fortune of money (that could be used to truly HELP this country) attacking each other, not developing policy solutions.  Whoever wins will say he wants to work with both parties.  Honestly, who would believe him, given the (usually) false attack ads his campaign will have run to get that man elected in the first place?  Our two primary parties do not trust each other.  Both will even less after this grueling, negative campaign.  So much for our nation’s progress addressing our SERIOUS problems (like Medicare for our seniors) in an effective way.

If politicians took a cue from Henry, they’d trust and collaborate  as Henry did after he suffered his stroke and lost his wonderful wife, Sylvia.  Both events occurred within six weeks of each other, between Thanksgiving 2011 and Sylvia’s 92nd birthday on January 4, 2012.  Henry was beaten, physically and emotionally.  Statistically he should have died soon after Sylvia.  He chose another option.  When help was offered, he accepted it.  Despite his broken heart, when I told him if he wanted to succumb to grief and lack of physical independence, I would not talk him out of it.  But I also told him if he wanted to keep living, my husband and I would help him, grieve with him, pray with him, exercise with him, feed him and care for him in any way we could.  Medicare helped some, but our human touch is what guaranteed a positive outcome.  Henry is thriving and has a new life.  We consider him a member of our family and he knows it.  He is immensely more interesting, important, and authentic than someone married for 72 days.

So for SOUL SHERPA’s readers who want to help our aging popluation in a meaningful way, don’t pay much attention to those people behind the curtain at Medicare to get it right.  Our aging population is growing and will continue to do so.  There are a lot of baby boomers still in line for Medicare.  Fact:  Not enough nurses, doctors, clinical partners and hospital beds exist to handle all baby boomers who will become Medicare eligible.  We must be proactive.

Become an effective advocate, a SOUL SHERPA, for an older person, whether he/she be a relative or friend.  Make sure their Health Care Directive, HIPAA release and POLST (if recognized in your state) are in order and reflect their wishes and preferences.  Make it a point to be around when medical issues arise, from a regular medical appointment to a hospitalization.  Your senior will most likely recover and live better, and be less of a burden on a Medicare system already overloaded and without a clear path to travel.  If a person cannot recover due to a terminal illness, follow the hospice example and develop your compassion gene.  No one should die alone.  You wouldn’t want to.

So much for adorable, but hopefully this gives my readers something significant to think about.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Glenna Elliott says:

    What an inspiring man. We read about Henry in Sept. 22, 2012 Wall Street Journal. My husband and I are 71 and 82. We look forward to joining the centenarian club in a few years.

  2. lisaberryb says:

    Dear Glenna,
    Thank you for writing. I’m so grateful to The Wall Street Journal for interviewing me. You and your husband are youngsters and have a while to go before joining the centenarian club! The best advise I can offer is to take life one day at a time. I walked five miles a day for forty years and I know that has contributed to my longevity.
    Best wishes,

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