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GAY AND GRAY: Elders Speak Out: "It gets better!"

The Longevity Prescription of Dr. Robert Butler: Stay With the Strategy

category_bug_journal2.gif This, the final chapter of The Longevity Prescription by Dr. Robert N. Butler, is all about cheerleading. The lessons have been explained and goals set along with the steps and strategies to achieve them and now it's time make a habit of the changes we need for a healthy old age. I like the final paragraph of the book:

“I want you to live longer; to accomplish that I want you to do things that rouse the quiet stream of happiness that you know is there. More than anything else, that will enhance your longevity.”

In 2009, I spent a week at Dr. Butler's Age Boom Academy in New York City where for five-and-a-half days, experts in all fields of aging - the hard sciences and the soft – presented the 12 of us with their latest findings. Butler was there throughout and it was obvious every day that he lived, and had done so for many years, in that “quiet stream of happiness.”

The phrase resonates with me. Although I'm not there at the moment, I can recall how it feels – I have lived that way from time to time when my job, personal life, health, activities and relationships were working together in harmony.

That is not to say things didn't go wrong during those periods. But because my life was generally in balance, the rough spots – for example, the deaths of three of my closest friends within 14 months – didn't throw me off my rails.

This chapter reads more like the usual run of self-help books – which doesn't make it anywhere near a bad thing – with some Butlerish aphorisms: I will do this; I can do this; I will find the time; I will pace myself; I will challenge myself. Some of them address such specifics as seeing the doctor, exercising, getting enough sleep, eating well, etc. that he discussed in detail in the earlier chapters.

I had a nice laugh at the beginning of this chapter where Butler invokes the grandfather of all self-improvement instruction, Emile Coue who was all the rage in the 1920s.

When he quotes Coue's signature line, “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better,” I heard my mother's voice. She was growing up during Coue's heyday and it must have made an impression because she often quoted that phrase, although less as an aphorism than as derision at its banality.

(Maybe that's where I got my general dislike of self-help books which, to me, seem mostly self-help for the authors to gain riches based on the bleedingly obvious.) As we work on improving habits that will improve our health, Butler suggests a minor twist on Coue: Every day, in every way, I am aging better and better.

At the end of his three-page list of resolutions, Butler talks about the deeper questions, unrelated to what is measurable such as blood pressure, waistline and glucose levels. Questions that have no right or wrong answers but do, he says, have health consequences.

”All merit your consideration and,” he writes, “if you think about these matters honestly, you will learn something about yourself.”

Personally, I find these more valuable than Emile Coue:

“If life is a treasure beyond measure, then have you used yours in a way that honors that gift?

“If love is a measure of our humanity, have you given more than you received?

“If you have posessed power in your life, have you used it to better the lives of others?

“Has your capacity for forgivness grown over the years?

“Think about compassion, suffering, knowledge, the power of art, the energy of fear, the value of flexibility.”

The Longevity Prescription is the most useful self-help book I've ever run across. It doesn't promise miracles. It doesn't trade in psychological gobbledegook. It doesn't set up Dr. Butler as a guru. Instead, there are hard facts, practical strategies and a sense throughout that within the context of one's personal health challenges, a healthy old age is achievable.

What I've done – or, rather, rediscovered while reading this – is the diet that works for me. Not to lose weight, although that is a pleasant result, but a way of eating that makes me feel better - and more content with myself for doing the right thing. I haven't conquered my sweet tooth, but I'm controlling it. And after slacking off for too long, I'm back to walking for an hour three or four times a week.

What about you? What did you get out of this series and what changes are you making?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today: Ann Favreau: Heroines


Ah, Coue. Now we call them aphorisms. We had Coue at our house, and I never did get better and better. LOL

Yes, BP, BSugars, and life are all working better now that I've increased my water intake. The doctor's never looked into dehydration just my heart....which was fine. Sometimes it's the small things that knock you down and out. You never know.

Thanks Ronnie for setting up this online book reading for us. I have sticky note markers in the book for key things I feel I need to work on. My first one was p. 60, not taking your balance for granted. I'm not staggering yet, but am easily tipped, and at 68 falling is not a good thing. I am in the process of composing my own "contract with myself." I am one of those people for whom that kind of thing seems to work especially if I worded it myself. I suppose it comes from my compulsive list making. As long as it works. Been working on the crosswords in my paper, and began a little stretch and weight routine in the mornings. Good for you walking. I enjoy walking and find it calming for me as well, sort of a physical kind of meditation.

Like most of your commenters, I do the best I can! Thanks for calling this book to our attention, Ronni.

I'd like to recommend another "medical self-help" (there's that word)book, "Treat Me, Not My Age," by Mark Lachs, MD, who is a protege of Dr. Butler. He's a smart geriatrician, younger than some of us, but his book emphasizes that we all age at different rates and can't allow ourselves to be lumped into a statistic. It has a lot of other useful knowledge that can help as we try to arrange our lives. It could let us stay more in charge and not be just a "victim" of the health care system as we grow older.

I agree, Joni. I just hate being lumped into the category of THE ELDERLY by the medical field, the media and others! We were different at 65 than we will be at 75, or at 85 (if we get that far). Yeah, I know they have to divvy us up for statistical purposes but as far as I'm concerned, I may be older but I'm not quite yet THE ELDERLY.

Thank you, Ronni, for encouraging us to read Dr. Butler's book and act upon it. Reading his advice--and your reviews of his topics-- reminds me that I need to lose weight and exercise more! I have placed many markers in this book and it tops my reading pile.

Dr. Butler's boook made me change one thing in my life. I am now working on losing those 10 pounds around my waist. If I accomplish that goal I will go for another 10 pounds. It is slow going when you are old, let me tell you.

I do need to do balance exercises and if I could stay away from this computer long enough I just might get to them.

I think I need to start by reading the book again and become motivated to improve my health. Maybe I need a slogan to mmotivate me. Each morning when I get up I will say "You go girl."

As I feared, life got in the way of walking each morning and now that I am feeling better I need to get going again. It's so easy to slip back into bad habits and I know I need to push myself.

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