Shigeaki Hinohara led an extraordinary life for many reasons. He was a Japanese physician and longevity expert who lived to 105 years old.
He was chairman emeritus of St. Luke's International University in Tokyo and honorary president of St. Luke's International Hospital in Tokyo at the time of his death in 2017.
Hinohara's book "Living Long, Living Good," is perhaps best known for offering advice that helped Japan become a world leader in longevity. It included some obvious points as well as others that were less obvious:
1. Never retire. When you retire, do so after age 65 if at all possible.
U.S. retirees have traditionally reached 65 years of age on average. The FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) has become increasingly popular in recent years.
Hinohara, however, saw things differently. "Retiring shouldn't ever be necessary, but if one must, it should be much later than 65," he said in a 2009 interview with The Japan Times. Almost 50 years ago, Japan's retirement age was 65 years old, when the average life expectancy was 68 years, and only 125 people in Japan lived to be 100 years old.
People today live longer, he explained. The U.S. life expectancy in 2020 will be 78.93 years, an increase of 0.08% over 2019. That means we should retire much later in life as well.
He worked up to 18 hours a day for five more years as he treated patients until a few months before his death.
2. Keep your weight in check (and take the stairs).
Regular exercise is important, according to Hinohara. "I walk two steps at a time to get my muscles moving," he said.
Hinohara also carried his own luggage and packages, and gave 150 lectures a year, typically lasting 60 to 90 minutes. "To stay strong," he said, "I stand for the whole time."
Furthermore, he mentioned that most people who live to be very old don't have weight issues. It is widely accepted that obesity is among the top risk factors for morbidity and mortality.
For breakfast, Hinohara drank juice.
"Lunch is plant-based, or nothing if I'm too busy to eat." he said. He explained that he never gets hungry while he works. Dinner consists of vegetables and rice, with 100 grams of vegetable protein twice a week."
3. Keep yourself busy by finding a purpose.
The lack of a full schedule, according to Hinohara, is a surefire way to age faster and die sooner. It's important to keep busy, but not just for the sake of keeping busy, but also to engage in activities that help others. Despite being busy, one can still feel empty and idle on the inside.
As a child, Hinohara found his purpose after the family's doctor saved his mother's life.
Janit Kawaguchi, a journalist who regarded Hinohara as a mentor, said, "He believed in giving back to others, so he had this incredible drive to help people, to wake up early in the morning and do something amazing for others." This was what kept him going.
Hinohara said in the interview, "It's great to live long. One can achieve one's goals and work for one's family until they are 60 years old. We should, however, contribute to society in our later years. I have been volunteering since I was 65 years old. Despite working 18 hours seven days a week, I enjoy every minute of it.”
4. Avoid stressing yourself out by following rules.
Although Hinohara promoted exercise and nutrition as pathways to a healthier and longer life, he also maintained that we shouldn't be obsessed with restricting our behaviors.
When we were children, he often said, we forgot to eat or sleep when we were having fun. "As adults, we should keep that attitude - too many rules can tire our bodies."
5. Don't forget that doctors can't cure everything.
Honohara warned against always following the doctor's advice. When a test or surgery is recommended, he advised, "ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her partner or children undergo such a procedure."
Hinohara argued that science alone cannot help people. It combines people without considering their individual illnesses. A person's heart is connected to their diseases, he said. "To understand illness and help people, we need liberal arts as well as visual arts."
St. Luke's also provided music, art classes, and animal therapy to cater to the basic need of patients: to have fun.
A good way to forget pain is to have fun, he said. When you play a game with a child with a toothache, he or she forgets the pain immediately."
6. Art inspires peace, joy, and inspiration.
Hinohara was incapable of eating toward the end of his life, but refused a feeding tube, according to The New York Times. At home, he died a few months after being discharged.
Through his art, Hinohara found peace in where he was, rather than fighting death. Robert Browning's poem "Abt Vogler" - with these lines in particular - was credited with his contentment and positive outlook toward life.
There shall never be one lost good! What was, shall live as before;
The evil is null, is nought, is silence implying sound;
What was good shall be good, with, for evil, so much good more;
On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven a perfect round.
Hinohara remembered his father reading it to him. "It motivates us to create large works of art, not small sketches. The expression encourages us to draw circles so large that we can't finish them while we are alive. In the distance, we can see an arch, but the rest is beyond our vision."
Dr Achyuthan Eswar