Secrets of Longevity and Aging Well — Explained through Momisms

Momisms—my mom said them, your mom probably said them—and I’ve said them too (cringe here)! If you follow current research on longevity and aging…it turns out that Mom was right (who knew?). Here are ten common momisms that match frequently cited research findings on positive aging. Time Magazines’ Longevity Issue (Vol. 187, No. 6-7, Feb 22-29, 2016) provides a summary of much of the current longevity research, and is filled with articles extolling the virtues of the following:

  1. Eat your vegetables – In her article on longevity (Time, Vol. 187, p. 82), Alexandra Sifferlin reported: “Diet Is by far the most powerful intervention to delay aging and age-related diseases.” Consistent with this claim, a 2014 UCL study reported that “People who ate seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day had a 42% lower risk of death at any point in time than those who ate less than one portion” with “vegetables having a larger effect than fruit”. (Source) Thanks, Mom! Please pass the broccoli!
  1. Get off of the couch (sometimes translated as “go outside and play”) – Research continues to bombard us with an important message that we can no longer ignore (no matter how hard we try!): Movement and activity are essential not only to our physical health but equally to our mental and emotional well-being. The good news is that small amounts of regular activity, even squirming and wiggling, can make a difference. (Time, Vol. 187, p. 80). Unfortunately, this does cancel out one standard momism: ‘don’t fidget’! Put more harshly, “scientists have shown that sedentary behavior, like sitting all day, is a risk factor for earlier death”. (Time, Vol. 187, p.84) Going even further, a 2011 study claimed that, after age 25, every hour spent watching TV was linked to a deduction of 22 minutes from predicted life expectancy. (Source) Two words come to mind here: uh oh!
  1. It’s no use crying over spilled milk (or if Mom was a Doris Day fan, ’kay sera sera’) – Research tells us that our bodies’ natural defense mechanisms, that help manage stress, decline as we age. Being able to control stress is a key characteristic of “successful agers”. (Source) Taking this a bit further, don’t you just love how research reporters nonchalantly throw out uncommon terms and then you find yourself nodding in agreement (even though you have no idea what exactly you just read)? For example, Time Magazine also reported, “It is now suspected by scientists that reducing stress may slow biological aging by stabilizing telomeres” (Time, Vol, 187, p.86) To translate the above: elderly people have chromosomes that have replicated many times. Telomeres keep these aging chromosomes from becoming inefficient or harmful. Yup, I definitely had to use my dictionary, plus ask around, to fully understand this one.
  1. Money doesn’t grow on trees – Financial comfort is frequently cited as a key piece of a happy retirement (and it is often a major area of concern for the retired and the nearly-retired). The good news is that many retirees enjoy happiness while having much less than others because they have (creatively) found ways to “cut their coat by their cloth.”(Source) Time Magazine’s Longevity issue would not be complete without discussing current financial retirement solutions and does so in Dan Kadlec’s Article, “So How am I going to Pay for It?” (Time, Vol. 187, p. 92)
  1. Do your Homework In research study after research study, crossing different countries, races, and social-economic factors, the following findings were consistent: increasing the number of years that children went to school was linked to better health and longevity. Dr. Lleras-Muney, who wrote a prize-winning dissertation on this topic, was quoted in the New York Times as stating “life expectancy at age 35 was extended by as much as one and a half years simply by going to school for one extra year.”(Source) The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics supported this claim in their findings that “people with a bachelor’s degree or higher live about nine years longer than people who don’t graduate from high school” (Source). And as Mom knows, doing homework was a great excuse for getting out of doing the dishes!
  1. Make a Friend (sometimes translated as ‘Play nicely with others’) – Having strong, positive friendships is also solidly linked with longer life. Having friends to turn to decreases social isolation, provides emotional and physical support, helps us to better manage stress and, according to some research, improves our immune systems. (Source) Significantly, positive mindset (momism: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all), and engaging in meaningful activities (momism: if you don’t do it now, then when are you going to do it?) get wrapped up into this category as well.
  1. Respect your elders – This one surprised me. Research has now found that those of us in middle age, who possess healthy attitudes towards the elderly, fare much better as we age ourselves. Studies have shown that adults, in their 40’s, who demonstrated negative stereotypes of senior citizens, twenty-five years later showed a significantly greater loss in the volume of their hippocampus (and thus significantly greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease) than their more positive peers who took part in the same study. Something else Mom often said, “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.
  1. You just ate an hour ago – Okay, this one I have found myself, as a mom, saying quite a bit. And as it turns out, cutting calories and fasting in our older years (done properly), can result in significant health benefits. Researchers from The University of California’s Longevity Institute found that “when people occasionally fasted, they lowered their risk for age-related diseases.” (Time, Vol. 187, p. 82) This combines with other research supporting the benefits of healthy low-calorie diets in reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease. (Source) Rats! There goes my planned trip to Dairy Queen!
  1. Isn’t it past your bedtime? (or ‘Just go to bed!”) The National (US) Heart, Lung and Blood Association has confirmed that ongoing lack of sleep is linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. (Source) While it is often commonly believed that we require less sleep as we age, this belief is untrue according to The National (US) Sleep Foundation. (Source) Although this news may be disconcerting to many, it is of great comfort to those of us who love our beds (what better excuse to sleep in?).
  1. I will always love you (sometimes translated as “Call me when you get there”). It is widely accepted that nurturing and supportive family relationships can decrease stress levels. Research has also found that, in retirement, such relationships can provide us with stimulation, purpose, a sense of connection and the validation that may now be missing from the workplace. (Source, Source). Nowhere else is the strength of this bond more poignant than in the countless stories of grown men in battlefields calling out for the warmth, strength and protection of their mothers’ love. (Source)

Thanks, Mom, for the great advice and for the ahead-of-your time wisdom. I will always love you too!

Donna baby photo 2

Top Photo:  A current snapshot of Mom and me

Bottom Photo: (Viewers Left to Right) Me, my mom and my sister (53 years ago)

22 Replies to “Secrets of Longevity and Aging Well — Explained through Momisms”

  1. I ADORE this! I read many of the articles in that Time magazine myself, but I love how you related them to Mom-isms. (I could so her my mother’s voice as I read thru this.) It is so cool how you wove the articles into your post!

    Another one my mom had is “when one door closes, another opens” which to me is the concept of being positive. So critical as these days some doors are closing – my body cannot do some of the things it used to and recovery takes longer. So I need to look for other open doors on some things.

    And what about “if you see something that needs to be done, do it”. OK, maybe that was just my mom, but it has given me sense of responsibility. And I am trying to just do it these days when I see possibilities. Staying active, both physically and mentally.

    Have you thought about submitting this to Next Avenue for broader posting?

  2. Hi Pat – Thank you so much for the kind words and for the great suggestion. I am a total blogging newbie (and have only managed to get this far with my blogging through Google, guesswork, Facebook and by reading other people’s blogs). I appreciate hearing any other suggestions that you have. I am off to submit to Next Avenue right now (but I believe that I will need to reduce my article to 800 words). Thanks again! Donna

  3. I agree with Pat. This is an outstanding post and should be shared with a wider audience! And as I read your ‘momisms,’ I couldn’t help but hear my own mom saying those exact things! My one addition would be her “You keep a civil tongue in your head, missy!” That “just bite your tongue” philosophy often leads to getting along and being polite, by virtue of giving yourself time to cool off! And doesn’t the world just need a bit more of civil, polite discourse?!

    1. Thanks so much Lynn. I greatly appreciate your kind feedback. I like the additional advice from your mom re: keeping a civil tongue. After just turning off the news, I fully agree that the world could use more polite discourse!

  4. Really nice post… I could hear my mom’s voice as I read it! It’s too bad that we often don’t realize how smart our parents are when we are growing up! I think my mother said them all (and more) and, fortunately they managed to sink in. Number 8 especially resonates with me – I have been doing a modified fast once a week for almost three years. Believe it or not, I actually look forward to my fasting day. Great pictures!

    1. Thanks Janis. Do you have a post on your fasting? If so, can you please share the link? If not, that would be a great topic for you to write on. I would like to look further into fasting — but have no idea where to begin.

      1. It’s funny how we all get post ideas from each other’s blogs! I haven’t done one yet on my fasting. I had hesitated because I didn’t want it to sound like I was writing about dieting… but your post reminded me of the health angle. Stay tuned!

  5. Another very interesting post, Donna. All our mothers in that generation seemed to say and expect the same things from their children, and I often wonder how that happened with no computer culture to spread things to everyone. All the sayings and little platitudes were so wise, that would also be a neat topic,……. to collect and put them together so we can all have a list of them . Never hear today’s young mothers saying any of these. Here’s a few from my parents that I frequently remember, ” If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. ” A stitch in time, saves nine”. “Waste not, want not”. And my personal favourite when she was advising me on the suitability of boyfriends, “A leopard can’t change his spots”.

    1. Hi Dawne – It is very amazing that our moms said the exact same things, across huge distances, long before much of our modern technology. Thanks for adding the extra momisms — my mom said the four of them as well — quite frequently!
      There are some great collections of momisms out there. One of my favorites is Anita Renfroe’s ‘Momism song’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYukEAmoMCQ). There is also a Momism book out by Erin McHugh, Like My Mother Always Said. And, of course there are many momism lists floating around the Internet, for example, http://www.corsinet.com/braincandy/mom.html.
      Thanks so much for commenting. I am looking forward to catching up soon!
      Donna

  6. Based on the study that says staying in school extends life, our daughter, “the professional student”, should live forever.

    I’ve found you & come to visit through the AIM link party; I hope you’ll find time to stop on by the 4Shoes one day & let me know you’ve been.
    🙂

    1. Hi, Roseann – Thanks for stopping by. Yes, many researchers agree that prolonged fasting, in which only water is consumed for two or more days, reduces pro-growth signalling and activates cellular protection mechanisms in organisms ranging from single-cell yeast to mammals. There are also numerous studies supporting ‘fasting mimicking diets’ where a maximum of 3000 kilojoules per day are consumed for five days a month. source. You’re right — who knew?

  7. Great post with wonderful information. Even when informed of these things sometimes (often) it is still so hard to make ourselves abide by them! I think I hear Dairy Queen calling too!

    1. Hi, Teresa – That is so true. Usually we know what is good for us…but the temptations to do otherwise are hard to resist.
      Meet you at DQ?

  8. I don’t know how our Mom’s got to be so wise… the older I get the smarter she becomes. I need to remember these all especially “didn’t you just eat?”

    1. Hi, Beth – I totally agree. It is amazing how wise our mothers can get as we age. I am just off to check out your site now — super intriguing title!!

  9. Love the pics! All good points. No truer words than eat your vegetables. Then the get off the couch and go outside and play. Back in the 60s and 70s as I was growing up, we played outside until dark. I worry about kids today. All lots of them do is sit and stare at a computer screen, phone, or tablet. Yes, it’s way beyond my bedtime but I can’t go to sleep. I seem to function better at night. My circadian rhythm is out of whack. I still tell my adult children to let me know when they arrive at where ever it is they’re going. Thank you Donna for sharing this post at Wednesday AIM Link Party at Grammy’s Grid. I shared it on social media. Hope you get lots of traffic!

    1. Yes, the research on the negative impact of sitting is coming in loud and clear. Hope you finally got a good rest.
      Thanks for sharing on your social media. I have done the same for you!

    1. Thanks so much, Grammy Dee! I greatly enjoyed the link party and will be back again this week. Thank you for hosting this!

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