My mother is 97 years old. She still lives on her own, although she is able to do that only because I have 3 siblings who live in her town and can check on her daily. My mother has been on her own since my father died in 1986.. Over the years she has developed some habits of good health. Here are some of them:
(1) Walk with purpose. She has always walked briskly in order to get a little more benefit for her health. Although she frequently uses a walker now, until the last few years, she was always a quick walker. How much better for our general sense of well being to walk briskly as much as possible. She still walks out to the mailbox to get her newspaper and mail each day, and she bustles around the house doing daily chores. She wears a Fitbit and keeps track of her steps.
(2) Eat an apple, a banana, and half an orange every day. She says the apple is important for regularity, the banana helps with leg cramps, and the orange is for vitamin C.
(3) Keep the refrigerator and pantry stocked with foods that build health: apples, bananas, oranges, low-fat milk, cheese, eggs, whole wheat bread, carrots, potatoes, butter, honey.
(4) She doesn’t have anything against pork, but she doesn’t eat it unless there isn’t another choice. She prefers beef over chicken or turkey because she remembers the days when chickens and turkeys were sold alive, and the housewife was the one who had to dispatch it and clean it before cooking it. I recall, as a young child, watching my mother kill and clean chickens that parishioners gave our family. She eats both chicken and turkey, but she prefers beef. Of course, if she had to butcher a cow or observe one being butchered, she probably would decide she didn’t care for beef either.
(5) Natural foods are the best. She doesn’t count points. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall her ever dieting. She eats whole wheat bread only, lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and small portions of meat. She drizzles local honey on her toast at breakfast.
(6) Use very little salt or sweeteners. When my father had a heart attack, my mother stopped using salt almost entirely. I complained at the lack of flavor in many of the foods she made, and I would sneak in a few shakes of salt whenever I could. However, in terms of health, my mother was right. We should enjoy the natural flavor of foods rather than depending on so much salt. Still, I like a little salt.
(7) Probably my mother’s only “weakness” when it comes to food is ice cream. She loves it. She keeps a couple of cartons of black walnut ice cream on hand at all times.
(8) She enjoys coffee – and she seems to especially enjoy the vanilla lattes I make for her when I visit. I used to go to Starbucks each morning to get them, but now I make them myself. She always drinks every drop and talks about how good it is. When she is on her own, she usually drinks a very weak cup of coffee with milk in it. She talks about how she and my father would always end a meal by sitting at the table, sipping coffee, and talking.
(9) She keeps her mind busy. She has always read a lot. Right now she is reading through the Bible again. When I talked with her yesterday, she said she was into the Psalms. She underlines as she reads.
(10) Last of all, she drinks lots of water. She takes TWO glasses of water back to her bedroom each evening to get her through the night, and she keeps a glass of water next to her during the day. Thanks to my sister, Janice, and my niece, Amanda, for reminding me about how my mother always drinks plenty of water and encourages all of us to do likewise.
That’s about it as far as the habits that I want to emulate. Just think, though, about how we could build our own health by following the 10 guidelines above.