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Every senior needs a mountain

Mount Ranier Photo: .aditya./Flickr/Creative Commons

Climb every mountain…. Photo: Mount Ranier .aditya./Flickr/Creative Commons

One of the powerful statements in the Old Testament were the words Caleb uttered as he entered the promised land under Joshua.

This was the second time he had been at the edge of the land of milk and honey. The first had been under Moses, when Caleb and Joshua were among 12 men chosen to spy out the land God promised Israel.

While the other spies returned with tales of giants and impenetrable walled cities, Caleb and Joshua believed they could take the land with God’s help.

But the doubters won the day and Israel wandered around the desert for over 40 years until all the “negative Nellies” had died off.

As Israel was poised to enter the land a second time, Caleb, now age 84, reminded Joshua of the land God had promised Caleb and his family saying:

12 Now therefore give me this mountain… (Joshua 14:12 KJV)

Ever since he first spied out the land, Caleb had a vision, a sense of purpose, a goal – that this hill country would one day belong to him and his family

He tells Joshua that his strength is as unabated as it was 45 years ago.

11 I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. (Joshua 14:11 NASV)

We have to read between the lines a bit here. I have no doubt this is what Caleb believed, but he was now 84 years old. He was not the same man who at age 39 explored this land with the 11 other spies.

I imagine his sons probably smiled and rolled their eyes as he uttered those words. Years of trudging around in the desert had undoubtedly taken its toll.

But Caleb believed this and in one sense that is all that mattered. In fact, his statement didn’t reveal Caleb’s physical strength as much it did his mental vigor.

He still had a purpose and vision to conquer the hill country.

This kept Caleb going and more importantly it kept Caleb young.

This was the conclusion that researchers with the University College London (UCL), Princeton University and Stony Brook University came to in their research of 9,050 people over the age of 65.

After a series of questions analyzing how much control these seniors felt they had in their life and if they thought their life was worthwhile, the researchers divided them into four groups ranking them from those with the highest sense of purpose to the ones with the lowest.

In their study reported in the Lancelet, they then followed these groupings for 8.5 years.

What they discovered is that not only were seniors in the group with the higher sense of purpose happier, but they were outliving those who didn’t.

In their follow-up nearly nine years later, the research team found that only 9% of the people in the group with the highest level of goals, purpose and a vision had died, compared to 29% in the group with the lowest.

Once they adjusted for health, sex, smoking, physical activity and other factors that affect longevity, they discovered that people with the greatest sense of purpose were 30% “less likely to die.”

Over just an eight-year period, seniors with purpose and goals outlived their counterparts in the lowest by an average of two years.

In their news release, UCL Professor Andrew Steptoe said:

“The analyses shows that the meaningfulness and sense of purpose that older people have in their lives are also related to survival.”

I recently came across a Youtube video of a popular TV and movie star Dick Van Dyke, now 90 years of age.

He is still part of a musical group called Vantastix and they recently entertained the crowd at a Denny’s restaurant in Santa Monica with an impromptu song.

I would never have guessed he was 90. But Dick still has a purpose and goals for his life. He was still claiming his mountain.

He even wrote a book on dealing with aging called Keep Moving. In an interview with Good Day LA, Dick said it was others who encouraged him to write it.

Then in typical Dick Van Dyke humor he said that he originally wanted to entitle it What to do while circling the drain but added no one has a sense of humor anymore.

But then the interviewer asked Dick how old he felt. He answered:

“I feel about 50. Really.  [Then pointing to his head added] I think most of it is up here.”

That is the same 40-year difference that Caleb mentioned.

Van Dyke went on to say the key is attitude and motivating yourself to keep active.


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