December 19, 2020 — A very popular retirement-age calculator now is Livingto100. Developed by Dr. Thomas Perls, it asks a raft of fairly predictable questions and then provides an estimate of how long you will live, along with tailored advice. The questions makes a lot of sense – if you are healthy and avoid most of the bad things (drinking, smoking, stress, obesity), and do the good things (exercise, have friends, brain activities, floss, wear sunscreen, etc.), and your parents lived to ripe old ages – you have a good shot at living to 100. Which leads us to the connection to Winston Churchill, who, despite legendary bad habits, lived to 90 years old. How did he do it, and what can we learn from his experience?
Winston Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) is one of the most fascinating characters in world history. Most famously, as Prime Minister he courageously led Britain through WWII’s darkest days to defeat Hitler, with the help of America. His inspirational speeches are some of the greatest ever made, they can still make grown people cry. Over the course of his lifetime Churchill wrote 43 book-length works in 72 volumes. Soldier, captured and escaped war correspondent, and politician (he was Prime Minister twice), he had endless talents, including as an accomplished painter.
On the other hand, it is hard to see him earning a very high score on the livingto100 Calculator. For one, genetics were not in his favor. His father, Lord Randolph, died at age 45, and his mother, Lady Jenny (an American) at 76. Then there were his legendary bad habits. Drinking started early in the day for him, which Richard Langworth’s Winston Churchill, Myth and Reality estimated to total about six glasses of champagne or wine daily along with 5 to 6 ounces of whisky or brandy, spread over a 12 to 15 hour period. No one ever recalls seeing him drunk, however. Did he smoke you might ask: as many as 10 cigars a day. On the plus side he insisted on a hot bath and a 2 hour nap every day. He often stayed up all night and slept late in the morning.
On the exercise front there is a great quote attributed to him:
I get my exercise being a pallbearer for those of my friends who believed in regular running and calisthenics.Attributed to Winston Churchill
So how did Winston manage to live to age 90?
We are certainly not advocating all of his bad habits, particularly the drinking and smoking and lack of regular exercise. But to overcome those effects, he must have had some good things working for him, habits that we could emulate to overcome whatever health deficiencies we might have. One good thing helping Winston’s longevity was that he was happily married. He had many friends and a rich social life.
Perhaps most importantly, Winston Churchill had purpose in his life. Early on, he was driven to live up to his father’s legacy. As a war correspondent he wrote feverishly and entertainingly as a way to support his family. Later on as a politician he believed that only he could save his country, and he was probably right about that.
But even after he retired from public life in the 1950s he was driven. Art became a preoccupation, he would repaint the same scenes over and over again to try to get them just right. It was that sense of purpose at whatever he was doing, in our opinion, that helped him live such a long life, despite an accumulation of health issues such as stroke and heart ailments.
Want to live to 100?
Here’s what we speculate Winston would tell you – Find a purpose in your life and pursue it passionately!
Comments? What is your secret to living to a ripe old age? Have you found a purpose that will help get you there. Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.