13 Longevity and Healthy Living Secrets–gleaned from my 92 year-old Pop, Erwin A. Thompson

Ponce de Leon was searching for the Fountain of Youth. Now with all of us Boomers coming into our Geezer-hood at the same time we’re looking for models on how to age gracefully. We want to not just rack up a few more years, but contribute to family and culture…to make sure our years counted for something. For me, with each year that passes, my father becomes a stronger model the longer we know each other. This morning Jill Moon of the Telegraph stopped by my Dad’s house to interview him for the Active Living section of the paper. I called Pop from Daniel’s deck on my cell phone and he handed me to Jill. After chatting with her, I got to thinking more about what Ive seen in him and what I might share with you all about his longevity and healthy living secrets. Here are 13. –JGR

1. Healthy relationship with flow of time. My father draws from the past, pays attention to what needs to be done in the present, and continues to look forward to the future.

2. Big mind, big man. In his novels a recurring phrase is “big man” to describe the hero in the story. In his own life story my father proves himself to be a big man with a big mind.

3. Steady core values he lives by. My father’s values, formed in chidlhood, have deepened over the years through constant use. For instance, he believes in loyalty and service and constantly excercises these values.

4. Greater transparency, continual growth and change. I’ve seen my father continually grow and change during the nearly 60 years I’ve known him. His gruff exterior has fallen away through repeated softening and his loving, good heart is easier to see now more than ever.

5. Kindness. In very practical ways he performs acts of kindness, both random and directed and sustained. I think of him as a secret spritual practitioner. He enlarges his capacity by exending himself.

6. He continually enjoys and masters his creative passions. He writes, plays music, organizes old-tme square dances. He still gallantly dances with the little girls. He holds weekly musical open house.

7. He stays in contact with younger generations. Children three generations younger come to jump on his bed, hide in his closet and learn how to spell, read, and do math problems. He has several musical proteges.

8. Pursues hard physical work. The everyday working of keeping up his 100 acres and the holdings on it occupy his attention. My father’s brush clearing has given him a focus, and satisfaction.

9. Clear priorities lead to effectiveness. To watch my father move is a study in grace and economy of motion. My father is among the most productive people I’ve ever known. He’s busy, but it’s not just busy work…engagement with a purpose.

10. Asks for and receives help through family and neighborly support. Each of us have our jobs…medical, computer, social, creative, keeping the tractor running and the place oiled humming. Friends in the neighborhood love to feed my father.

11. Humor…wry, sly, dry, laconic, iconic.

12. Writing as spiritual practice protects his mind. When he wakes up at night he thinks about the world he’s creating and the characters in this world rather than negative thoughts that might arise otherwise. He’s completed two new books this year and is just starting a third.

13. Strong life force. Still enjoys good looking and smart women in his world. “If you’re too old to look, you’re too old,” Pop is fond of saying. I think of him as very French, very European in this way.

Thanks, Pop, for sticking around to inspire us, continue to raise us, and make the world around you a richer and more fun place to be in.

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  1. Really enjoyed this. Wish I had a portion of his energy. H ope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season. I will be with Suzy in Colo where she will perform at the Broadmoor Hotel for six shows. Merry Christmas. Barbara

  2. Thanks for visiting, Damaria…yes, you would enjoy him…and so would your mother and that generation… My parents came to visit me in Africa 3 times–twice in Botswana…and everone loved them because they were so down to earth. Pop walked everywhere rather than drove and this caught people’s attention and they would stop to talk with him. –Janet

  3. Thanks for keeping these tales no matter how slow some of us are in getting to read them. They are lifetime memories you are sharing to so many others too. I am reminded too when visiting your Dad how he confirms that tradition does add to longevity. He refuses to be too comfortable and stay only inside the home with air conditioning or too much heat so that he can remain active with all outside activities. He never limits life’s activities by just sitting inside a too comfy home. I recently saw a good quote that I also think reflects you family’s values – ” Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, Today is a gift so it is why we call it the present”. Fits you all, with the diversity and wide spread activities you give and share with all you encounter– inside and outside of the entire world. Priceless!

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