Living Your 100%

By Teresa Amaral Beshwate, MPH

Studying public health prepared me to speak to long-term benefits of healthy behaviors, which didn’t serve me all that well when I later went to work in a retirement community. During one conversation with a resident, as I was talking up the long-term benefits of exercise, the individual responded with, “Teresa, I don’t buy green bananas.”

My immediate response was a blank stare. What I learned from the conversation is that not everyone fears death and in fact some are ready now, and since one never knows how much time they have left, it’s best to buy ripe bananas, just in case. In other words, long-term benefits aren’t all that interesting.

I later learned from my friend and mentor Dr. David Gobble that we all have exactly 100% of whatever time we have left. That 100% can be spent in any way we choose. We know that decline can be a reality, especially in the absence of any effort to the contrary. Science says that 70% of how we age physically (and 50% of how we age cognitively) is dependent on the lifestyle choices we make each day. So, in that 100% of whatever time we have left, we have a great deal of control over our quality of life.

I eventually become more familiar with the short-term benefits of healthy behaviors. Small efforts today do indeed produce nearly immediate results, and those are probably the best motivators of all, no matter what color bananas you buy.

Joy, a resident from another retirement community says it best, “I want to be alive and I want to really live. If you don’t feel healthy, you don’t feel like doing anything.”

How will you choose to spend your remaining 100%? It can be spent in a state of long, slow decide, or it can be a time of being fully alive, living on your terms with optimal physical and cognitive function. It seems like an obvious choice – but it doesn’t matter what we say we want. Our actions determine our future.

What have you chosen today?  

Teresa Beshwate