fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

A good doctor offers sage aging advice

A 105-year-old Japanese physician, Shigeaki Hinohara, who I’d never heard of until today (but will henceforth follow faithfully) died this summer. Throughout his life, he recommended simple, easy-to-implement “pieces” of advice about healthy living. Some of the approaches he encouraged I already observe — but not everything. That is about to change.

His first “firm proponent“ was, “Take the stairs and always carry your own stuff” followed quickly by, “Do not believe everything your doctor recommends or says” reminding us that “science alone cannot help cure people.” But he also issued a stern imperative to older adults about the importance of having a complete annual physical examination.

His comments about the pain that so many elders endure and complain about caught my eye. He stated “pain is mysterious” and you must “do something fun” to distract yourself from it. And then he specifically recommended “music and animals.” Organ music may have worked for him in light of other things I have read about his inclinations. Not sure what animals he would suggest — but fish and turtles are quite popular in Japan.

This simple and sage man encouraged “share what you know.” He did. You will have to look at YouTube to see Dr Hinohara’s 90-minute lectures — which he always gave standing up. Or you could locate one of the several books he has written such as “Important Thing I Want to Tell You Now. Peace.” In which he reminds the reader, “You do not have to retire but you must plan ahead.”

Here are a few more illustrations of the healthy aging advice he gave throughout his life — you will notice there is an intriguing twist to some of his dictums. The good doctor cautions “don’t be overweight.” His diet reportedly relied on a tablespoon of olive oil for breakfast coupled with orange juice and coffee. Amounts varied depending on the day. Cookies and milk for lunch — yes, you read that correctly. Cookies, plural. Although I think he called them “biscuits.” For dinner, it was rice, fish and vegetables — lean meat twice a week. He was not an advocate of time-regulated rules for eating and sleeping. He encouraged us to “be like children” and “have lots of fun each day until you feel sleepy or hungry.”

He ends his advice-giving list with “Be inspired.” Look out to the world to motivate you. He was said to have a favorite poem that reportedly did that for him. It is “Abt Vogler” by Robert Browning. Are you familiar with that poem? The subtitle is: “After He Has Been Extemporizing upon the Musical Instrument of His Invention.” It is about an 18th-century organist and is almost visually complex. I just located it online and read it twice. It took me a while. I also read the study questions that accompanied it. I admire the poet but concluded that poem was not something that motivates me. But this statement from Dr. Hirohana does, “Have big visions and put such visions into reality with courage. The visions may not be achieved while you are alive … do not forget to be adventurous, then you will be victorious.” Peace.

— Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org.