Today, my grandmother turned 94 years young. And the amazing thing is that she is still the same Nai Nai I remember as a child – independent, thoughtful, active, energetic, and passionate. How is she still just as healthy now as she was 30 years ago?
Here are 5 ways to stay healthy that we can learn from my grandmother:
1) Learn to Cook
To this day, every time I see my Nai Nai, I am greeted with a ridiculous amount of home-cooked food stored in various plastic containers (see #3 below), including a huge tub of Almond Jello because she knows I love and will eat the entire thing. My Nai Nai loves to cook and besides her thoughtfulness to give away food to others, there are actually a lot of side-benefits to cooking regularly, some of which include:
– being able to take care of yourself and your own meals
– eating healthier because you know exactly what ingredients are in your dishes
– building muscle strength (some of the pots are really heavy – no joke!)
– and stimulating your mind by reading recipes, measuring food, or remembering the steps to make a dish
2) Stay Social
My Nai Nai lives in a senior community center where she takes care of herself and her own apartment, but there are friends nearby and activities to participate in. Almost every day she has some social engagement where she and her friends go on a field trip somewhere or they are taking a class together or they are just sharing a meal together and gossiping! Staying social prevents us from being too isolated and lonely.
3) Express Yourself
Anyone who knows my Nai Nai knows that she has a very strong opinion about everything. She knows exactly what she wants. What matters here is that she cares. If we stop caring and become apathetic about everything, then we lose that spark, that passion, that should be inspiring us everyday. Here are some specific examples of what my Nai Nai cares about:
– The U.S. Citizenship Test: My Nai Nai came from China in the 80’s to live in the United States. She speaks very limited English. And yet, 10 years after immigrating to the U.S., she decided she wanted to take the U.S. Citizenship test. She spent months listening to a tape recording of questions and answers, memorized it all, and PASSED the test. That’s determination, considering she really can’t carry a conversation in English, at all.
– Re-using Please: Remember in #1 above I mentioned the various plastic containers that my food was stored in? Well, my Nai Nai is the queen of re-using. Containers from the grocery store get re-used (think round margarine tub). Wrapping paper from birthdays and Christmas exchanges get re-used. Yes, we all open wrapping papers slowly and carefully. Presents she received from others get sent to you. Re-use.
– Dress to Impress: At 94 years old, my Nai Nai is one stylish lady. Not only does she continue to take care of her skin every night, style her hair, wear make-up, and coordinate her outfits to match her jewelry, but also she loves her shoes! You will never catch her in any flats. Despite already having several falls in the past couple years (including stitches a month ago!!!), my Nai Nai will forever be wearing her heels (fortunately less than 2 inches!).
4) Exercise Everyday
Of course my Nai Nai came from a different generation where she never needed a car, and therefore never learned how to drive. Moving to the U.S. was a challenge because everything is very spread apart and transportation is essential. Fortunately, my father lives close to my Nai Nai and frequently drives her to places that are a bit farther like a doctor’s appointment or her weekly grocery runs. However, on a day to day basis, my Nai Nai exercises by walking around the neighborhood by herself (though we aren’t so fond of that), walking to the CVS a few blocks away, or walking to the In N Out because for some strange reason she loves their burgers….. I am sure if the rest of us did not have the luxury of relying on our personal cars, we would all be much, much healthier!
5) Believe in Something
Simply put, get in touch with your spiritual health. My Nai Nai is a strong Christian and she has her weekly church services and fellowship that she attends (and takes the bus to), and on a daily basis, she prays. Not only do we need to be physically and mentally strong, but also we need to be spiritually strong too.
We have a lot to learn from the people around us. Today, I am unable to physically celebrate with my Nai Nai in person because I live far away, but I am celebrating right now her presence and influence in my life, and now in my daughter’s life too. We may not all be meant to live 94 years, but we all are meant to find purpose and passion in our lives every single day!
Happy 94th Birthday Nai Nai!