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My father-in-law, Royal, is 91 years old. This is astounding when I think about it because while he does have the inevitable features of an older man, his physical and mental state of being is that of a much younger person. One has to ask the obvious question of Royal regarding his longevity: What's your secret?

I'm not sure he would claim to have any "secrets." But here are some of the features that I've observed in his every day living that I know he recommends:

1) Keep busy. Not necessarily full-time, of course, but keep busy doing productive things. When Royal isn't attending funerals of peers, he is working on building projects like restoring historic buildings in the community. This type of volunteer work awarded him the title of Citizen of the Year recently. But the real reward is just being able to do it.

2) Exercise! Exercise benefits all ages, and walking in the fresh air is especially beneficial as the sunshine produces serotonin, which helps to prevent falling into mental slumps. Royal goes every day to the local YMCA where he uses various exercise equipment that suits his individual needs. To his surprise, he received a Member of the Month recently. Again, though, the greatest reward is just being able to take part in fitness.

3) Eat a plant-based diet. Simple foods in moderate amounts seem to be key in not only living a long life, but living a life of quality. Eating a high protein diet, particularly meat products, is a strain on digestion and perhaps contributes to wearing the body out sooner than it would without that strain. Sticking to simpler plant foods keeps the system running more efficiently, and apparently, longer.

Long life isn't always a blessing, but heeding the example of those who have achieved it with their health intact might be something the rest of us could do well to do.

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By Gwen Scott Simmons. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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