This summer I may have discovered the secret to staying young. My grandmother, whom I’ve written about in this space before, turned 90 in June and along with my son, we spent most of the summer with her on a little wooded island on Michigan’s Lake Huron. We made three trips from Montana to the U.P., and our final trip, in August, was three weeks in length. While I am not a doctor or any sort of guru who can firmly prescribe the path to longevity and vitality, I can share my findings after closely observing my grandmother, M, for a good amount of time.
My case study is my grandmother, for whom age hasn’t seemed to blemish or diminish her strength or vitality. I think the way in which she lives provides a worthy template for staying young. Or, since I know she’s reading this and will scoff, young-ish. First key to staying young? Read.
My grandmother is a voracious reader. Her appetite for the written word is insatiable and she is a dedicated practitioner. I witnessed her read a novel in a day or two, sometimes staying up quite late at night because she was so absorbed in the story. She and I traded titles, and loved to talk about what happened in the book that made us laugh or cry. I thought I was someone who truly had her nose stuck in a book, but my grandmother approaches reading on a different level. At one point during my stay, she had read every book in the cabin and all the newspapers. And since we were on an island and the library was a boat ride to the mainland, she had to read decade old newspapers until we made it to town.
In this time of book scarcity, I asked her if she would resort to reading the cookbooks and she looked at me and said, “I’ve done it before when I’ve run out of reading material.”
So, reading is certainly a key component to an agile, engaged mind. Keeping the body active is critical too. I believe activeness gets translated into gyms and workout routines, which are important, but can oftentimes prove daunting. My grandmother doesn’t have access to gyms or studios and she doesn’t have internet at her cabin. So for her keeping active is what you do as a normal human being, not some cultural affect. Getting in and out of a boat everyday, tying dock lines and weathering waves and storms, hauling groceries from the dock to the house, performing house chores and clearing beaches are all a part of her physical routine. This summer she had the added challenge of a toddler in her midst, so that upped the workout.
Last thing? Ditch the cellphone and have a cocktail at night. Live without internet, remember phone numbers and addresses in your head, use a landline for the telephone, and make sure when you’re on an island there’s always a stash of tonic, precious ice cubes, and the libation of your liking.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.