Comedian Carl Reiner was good at living well — and he lived well until the age of 98. I recently watched his 2017 HBO documentary, “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.”
It introduces viewers to several people who are flourishing in their 90s — running races at 100, doing yoga at 98, playing the piano professionally at 100 — and it really does inspire people of all ages to get off their duff and take life by the horns.
Average life expectancy has taken a hit in the past few years due to COVID-19 which claimed 1 million Americans, and opioid overdoses, which claimed 100,000 in 2021, reports Fortune. It’s particularly heartbreaking that so many of the opioid deaths were young people. What a loss of human potential.
Despite recent life-expectancy setbacks, however, the truth is, technological innovation will continue to extend our lifespans. According to the World Future Society, advances in nanotechnology and cell and gene manipulation may eventually keep humans alive for 120 to 500 years.
I have zero desire to live 500 years, but after watching Reiner’s documentary, I am inspired to dive into life with more passion right now, at age 60. Living well and living an active life has nothing to do with age, but with the decisions we make every single day. And choosing to live with greater vitality is not so hard to do.
Reiner says the key to having vitality in your life is to do something that makes you eager to get out of bed every morning. In his case it was writing. He wrote a book every year in his 90s. He found a way to share his legendary humor with the rest of us. I am finally embracing such wisdom.
I wake now at 6 a.m. and once I get my lovable lab, Thurber, situated, I go to a writer’s nook I created in an unused bedroom and work on a new dog-related blog and a book about my first year as a new dog dad (www.ThurbersTail.com). Such simple writing brings me tremendous joy and gives me a burst of energy to manage the often stressful communications consulting work I do for corporate clients during the rest of my working day.
Reiner’s documentary says that another key to vitality is to keep moving. Get up. Get out. Meet friends. Make eye contact. We are social animals and eye contact, conversation and a hearty laugh shared with friends are the foundations of vitality. If there is something you’ve always wanted to do, there’s no time like the present, so get off your butt and do it.
Reiner explains how his wife Estelle didn’t start her jazz singing career until she turned 60. She recorded seven albums and performed in jazz clubs until she died at the age of 94.
It’s easy to let unpleasant current events — inflation, recession, political bickering — weigh our spirits down. It’s important to follow what is happening in our government and exercise our right to vote. But what is even more important is that we choose to live fully doing something meaningful and doing something we love every single day, no matter how old we are.
We become better sons and brothers and neighbors and citizens that way — to the benefit of us all.
Tom Purcell, is a humor columnist. Email him at Tom@TomPurcell.com.