Want to know how to live longer and enjoy a fulfilling retirement? One man who had many of the answers to this question was Shigeaki Hinohara who, until his death in 2017, was one of the world’s leading longevity experts.
The Japanese physician and educator lived to the fine old age of 105 and, in his later years, wrote more than 100 books sharing his tips for living a long life. Here, we share some of his wisdom.
Want to live a long life? Don’t retire
As the founder of the New Elderly Movement, Hinohara encouraged others to live a long and happy life, leading by example. He began work at St Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo in 1941 and also held the position of chairman emeritus of St. Luke’s International University.
Until a few months before his death on July 18 this year, The New York Times reports that Hinohara continued to treat patients, kept an appointment book with space for five more years, and worked up to 18 hours a day. He was 105 years old.
One of the key ‘how to live longer’ mantras that the expert lived by was ‘don’t retire’. And, if you must, retire much later than age 65.
He says: “There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65. The current retirement age was set at 65 half a century ago, when the average life-expectancy in Japan was 68 years and only 125 Japanese were over 100 years old.
“Today, Japanese women live to be around 86 and men 80, and we have 36,000 centenarians in our country. In 20 years, we will have about 50,000 people over the age of 100.”
Japan Times journalist Judit Kawaguchi, who considered Hinohara her mentor, told the BBC: “He believed that life is all about contribution, so he had this incredible drive to help people, to wake up early in the morning and do something wonderful for other people. This is what was driving him and what kept him living.”
How to live longer? 3 tips from the expert
As well as recommending that you never retire, Hinohara also had many other guidelines for living well. Here are just three of them.
1. Eat well, and don’t be overweight
If you want to live long, it’s important to eat well.
Hinohara says: “All people who live long — regardless of nationality, race or gender — share one thing in common: None are overweight.
“For breakfast I drink coffee, a glass of milk, and some orange juice with a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Olive oil is great for the arteries and keeps my skin healthy.
“Lunch is milk and a few cookies, or nothing when I am too busy to eat. I never get hungry because I focus on my work. Dinner is veggies, a bit of fish and rice, and, twice a week, 100 grams of lean meat.”
2. Question your doctors
Hinohara believed that you should always question medical advice rather than blindly agreeing to what your doctors are telling you.
“When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure”, he says.
“Contrary to popular belief, doctors can’t cure everyone. So why cause unnecessary pain with surgery? I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.”
Hinohara also believed that pain can be conquered by having fun.
“Pain is mysterious, and having fun is the best way to forget it. If a child has a toothache, and you start playing a game together, he or she immediately forgets the pain.
“Hospitals must cater to the basic need of patients: We all want to have fun. At St. Luke’s we have music and animal therapies, and art classes.”
3. Keep active
Keeping physically and mentally active was another of Hinohara’s key tips to a long and fulfilled life.
Even into his 90s, the Japanese physician took the stairs and carried his own belongings. He even claimed: “I take two stairs at a time, to get my muscles moving.”
He also kept his diary full and planned forward. His schedule book contained plans for up to five years ahead with his lectures and hospital work, and he continued to work right up to his death.
“It’s wonderful to live long. Until one is 60 years old, it is easy to work for one’s family and to achieve one’s goals. But in our later years, we should strive to contribute to society. Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours, seven days a week and love every minute of it,” he said.
Get in touch
Of course, living a long life means that you will potentially need your retirement savings to last for longer. If you want advice on how to plan for a long life, get in touch. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (0161) 8080200.