Ten Keys to a Long (and Good) Life

In today’s post, I continue exploring the first part of the Blum Family Mission Statement: “It’s all about relationships.” In my research on the value of relationships, I discovered a powerful connection between relationships and longevity. It comes as no shock that interpersonal connections improve both the quantity and quality of life, but what does shock me is how high social interaction falls on the list of top reasons for longevity.

By and large, The Blum Firm’s client base beats the life expectancy lottery. We want to help our clients enjoy a positive senior experience. Legacy planning is not just about improving the quality of life for your heirs, but also about enriching your own life experience. To that end, we engage actively in aspects of “Elder Law,” a label that didn’t exist when I started my law practice. With our Red File checklist, we encourage clients to provide instructions on their care in case of incapacity—not just where they want to live or who will be the caregivers, but also favorite foods, TV shows, colors, etc. We promote planning to avoid guardianship, encouraging the use of financial and medical powers of attorney. We also provide expertise to help protect clients from the tragic epidemic of elder financial abuse, whether from con artists, caregivers, and even family members who prey on the elderly. Our mission is to help clients improve not only the length of their days, but also the quality of those days.

There are certain factors that contribute to long life that are beyond your control, such as genetics. But there are many actions that are within your control. Julianne Holt-Lunstad is a researcher at Brigham Young University who studied tens of thousands of middle-aged people. She examined their lifestyle: their diet, their exercise, their medical status, how often they went to the doctor, whether they smoked or drank, etc. After seven years, she and her colleagues reported their findings. Psychologist Susan Pinker also reports on such research in her 2017 Ted Talk entitled “The Secret to Living Longer May Be Your Social Life.” Here, in descending order of importance, are the top ten contributors to living longer:

10. Clean air
9. Hypertension medication
8. Staying lean
7. Exercise
6. Cardiac rehab
5. Flu vaccine
4. Quit drinking
3. Quit Smoking
2. Close relationships
1. Social integration.

According to Pinker, “face-to-face contact releases neurotransmitters that foster trust, reduce stress, kill pain, and induce pleasure.” She distinguishes between in-person and digital interaction, as the greater benefit comes from interacting in person with people as you move through your day. Social integration doesn’t have to be a close friend. It can be the conversation with a mailman. For years, my wife Laurie delivered Meals on Wheels and had meaningful visits with her “clients” as she brought meals into their homes. She was told countless times from both her clients and their family members what a difference that visit made in the day.

Bottom line: Close personal relationships and face-to-face interactions are the top two keys to living both a long and a good life. In next week’s post, I will apply this proposition to my own mother’s situation. Watch for how Elsie Blum, at age 90, improved her life by moving to a wonderful senior living community at The Stayton in Fort Worth.

Marvin E. Blum

Elsie Blum (left) with son Marvin Blum and daughter-in-law Laurie Blum, improving both the quantity and quality of Elsie’s life through social interaction.