By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

As we age, most of us want to live as long as possible and with good health. A healthy diet, physical exercise, satisfying activities, moderate to low stress and good genes can contribute to such longevity.

Like other goals in life, healthy living to a very old age can be supported by such factors, and can be subverted by a tragic accident, an unexpected medical event or overwhelming personal loss. Absent such subversion, many older people choose to take good care of themselves and to be involved in meaningful and satisfying activities at home, in the community and in travel adventures.

Besides diet and social activities, two boons for healthy, long living should not be overlooked: an optimistic attitude and connections with supportive friends. While not a given, these values are worth cultivating and maintaining.

Structured studies have been supporting the correspondence between optimism and longevity. According to “Psychology Today,” researchers at Harvard University recently reported that “people who are optimistic – as marked by a positive outlook and belief that good things will happen in the future – tend to live longer than their less-optimistic counterparts.”

The same magazine previously reported on a study from Denmark, published in the journal “Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes,” found that patients with heart disease who have a positive attitude live longer than those with a negative mood. The study reported that people with a positive attitude are “more likely to exercise, reduce their levels of stress hormones, adopt healthier lifestyles, and may live longer, healthier lives.”

Research also suggests that our lifespans are influenced by the company we keep. A recent study of 300,000 people revealed the top factor in living longer is having good friends. An Australian study found that people with the most friends tended to outlive those with the fewest by 22 percent. But it’s more important to have a small group of close, reliable, long-term friends than a plethora of casual, friendly acquaintances and people who superficially friend you on Facebook and/or other social media.

If you believe that life is worth living and you want to live a long life, you know that taking good care of yourself by maintaining a positive  attitude, cultivating good friendships, and enjoying a good diet, exercise appropriate to your capabilities, as well as meaningful activities and involvements can increase the likelihood of a satisfying long life.


The celebration of Thanksgiving Day reminds us to actively give thanks for all the good in our lives. We may be grateful for some combination of our health, life partner, family, friends, achievements, financial means, work, play, food, etc.

In moments of gratitude, we may think about people near and far, in every part of the world, who are living tragic lives of ill health, poverty, oppression and other sorrowful and maddening plights. Recent, horrific, climate change-related fires may have left us feeling stunned and powerless. We may find ourselves feeling guilty or at least relatively powerless to help affect positive change on a worldwide scale or even close to home.

Such questions may arise: Should I be sharing much more of my resources with people who barely have enough to survive? Should I become active in a social action movement or humanitarian organization? Should I change my will to leave more to charities that I believe in?

This is a personal struggle that can benefit by sharing it with a trusted advisor or a dedicated group or organization. The dilemma of “What can I do to make the world a better place?” can be addressed on a small, substantial or even radical scale.

We can contribute more time and money to one or more local, statewide, national or international programs. Each of us can examine our values, resources and readiness to do more. We don’t need to compare ourselves to some billionaires’ huge donations to causes they believe in. So many people give from their hearts in quiet, anonymous ways like taking someone in who has lost their home from a fire or visiting a lonely elder on a regular basis.

The answer to this challenging dilemma is very personal. At this Thanksgiving and beyond, we can give it thought, make and act on a decision, and go easy on guilt tripping ourselves. Our energy and resources are best spent on looking at giving options and making and acting upon decisions that will make a difference.

By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

A friend told us that she tends to her e-mail correspondence too infrequently, but added: “I forgive myself.” Later she spoke of her experience with someone close to her who was not treating her well and reflected, “Separate from how anybody in my life treats me, I continue to love myself.”

We can all take a lesson from our friend. More than almost anything else, we all need to love and forgive ourselves.

If we were hard on ourselves in our earlier lives, it’s all too easy to continue cheating ourselves of these necessities. However, it is never too late to take a fresh look and change such negative attitudes. This applies to deep-rooted and toxic, or annoying put-downs of ourselves.

A good place to start is by exploring how such attitudes developed and what has been keeping us from replacing them with a healthy regard that can lighten our spirit and help us to carry out our life’s deepest purpose. Does it go back to our child-rearing, to a damaging pivotal event, or to prevailing social pressures? Or do we simply need to take stock of a habit that we may now be ready to change?

People sometimes feel better about themselves by consciously coming to the realization that they are lovable, separate from any of their unhealthy behaviors. It can help to have at least one, hopefully more, people who accept them for themselves.

In some cases, professional help may be needed to get at the cause of an attitude or behavior harming our emotional or physical well being. Once we do, what a relief it can be to clearly see why we are rejecting ourselves in a certain way, and to find the power to reverse such an attitude! Not only can we breathe a deep sigh of relief, but we can redirect that energy to enlivening pursuits and people we care about.

Confucius said, “The more you know yourself, the more you forgive yourself.” This makes no sense to people who loathe themselves. But this wisdom resounds with anyone who has experienced the liberation of unconditional love.

Think of our friend’s ease about her e-mail delinquencies and her constant self-love separate from how the world is treating her. Does an emerging awareness in your own mind and heart offer you hope, insight and power to recognize, forgive and love your true self as never before?

A familiar expression comes to mind: “Try it, you’ll like it.” Our message today is “Try your deepest, most valuable self. You’ll like yourself.”

Reading: “The Self-Forgiveness Handbook: A Practical and Empowering Guide” by Thom Rutledge

By Roger Cormier and Sandy Cohen

Looking at our surroundings with fresh, attentive eyes and a truly open mind can reveal more than meets the eye. Take certain trees as reminders of continuing and even new life after middle age.

A dried out, 4-foot-high tree trunk with no bark stands at the side of a walking path in the English countryside. For whatever reason, it was not cut to the ground.

Consequently, it sprouted a new tree, which is reaching for the sun and spreading branches to host birds. Before long, it will provide a shady resting point for contemplation of the adjoining rolling hills.

This amazing feat of nature, upon reflection, mirrors the later lives of many older people. They may have closed certain chapters of their life story as they retired and survived life partners, soul mates and other earlier journey mates. Their health may have declined and their family may live at a distance.

But look at their new shoots and branches of keen interests and activities, as well as sanctuary for old friends and new acquaintances. Such new life may be easy to recognize among elders who passionately travel to explore other lands and cultures, or who choose to embark on a later life career or to offer their skills and care to people in need of help.

Not so easy to recognize is the glow on the face of an elder reflecting on the next steps of a creative project or treasuring special memories or new feelings of oneness with natural surroundings and people.

A large old oak tree at Lafayette Reservoir not too long ago was uprooted and fell. After it became barkless and seemingly dried out, shoots began to reach up and out. Doesn’t it know it was finished off after a long, productive life? We can only guess its future configuration and contributions to its living environment.

Whatever our chronological age, each of us has something old, dried out and seemingly useless in our physical, relational or vocational makeup. We also likely have openings out of which can spring shoots that will become new branches and limbs that will reach out from what may have seemed an unlikely base.

Fresh eyes and trees can mirror our ageless beginnings of creative, productive and satisfying relationships, adventures, contributions, insights and oneness with ourselves and our world.

By Roger Cormier and Sandy Cohen

Nothing seems to spread as quickly as inspirational e-mails via family and friends. One such e-mail inspired us to post about it as follows.

The subject of the e-mail was “A dog named Faith.” Born effectively without front legs, his mother rejected her and her first owner considered “putting her to sleep.” However, another person felt sorry for her, adopted her, vowed to teach her to walk and named her Faith. Within six months he was standing erect on his hind legs and jumping forward. Later he learned to walk like a human.

Faith received much notoriety in person and in the media. Her owner decided to give up her teaching job and take Faith on a world tour to preach that even without a perfect body one can have a perfect soul.

Statue of Tasmanian Antarctic explorer Louis Bernacchi and his dog Joe at harbor of Australia’s Hobart, Tasmania

This got us thinking about each of us human beings and our own personal stories of faith, perseverance and accomplishment in the face of physical, psychological, prejudicial and other limitations and bad experiences. Far from being featured in an ever-spreading e-mail, we ourselves often lose sight of what we overcame and achieved, and few if any people even know or recall our story.

Such stories involve acts of faith in ourselves, by ourselves, and often by others in our lives. Today we can take some moments to reflect on our faith stories. Perhaps we will consider thanking someone who believed in and encouraged us, and sharing one or more of our faith stories with those whom we want to know us more completely and/or with those who might benefit from exposure to our stories.

Just as important, we can take a fresh look at current challenges in our life. We then can summon enough faith to meet a challenge as an opportunity for growth, personal satisfaction and giving of ourselves to others in new ways or with renewed purpose and fervor. If we face what seems like an insuperable stumbling block to faith forward, maybe it is time to seek reinforcement from someone close, a professional or a support group.

Whether we face an unwelcome or an inviting challenge, it is important to go beyond stuck patterns, discouragement, stereotypes and myths about whether we can consider and accomplish what calls out from deep wells and sparkling cascades of faith within and outside of ourselves. We can say yes. We can start today and persevere tomorrow with or without an inspirational e-mail.

By Roger Cormier and Sandy Cohen

A friend in Mexico recently wrote: “Since you are bloggers about life – what are the metrics for success/satisfaction at our age? My story is that life consists of three phases: Learning, Earning and Yearning. Each phase has distinct metrics or so it seems to me.

“Getting good grades and mastering the rules was the first phase’s metrics. The bottom line was key in the earning phase. But now that we’re no longer on the achievement wheel, how do we know if we’re getting to where we want to go? Surely, it’s not all tacos and sunshine. I’d like to hear your take on this phase of life. I have questions, but few answers. All I know is that the stuff I used to know is no longer as true as I once thought, and the stuff that counts in life isn’t stuff.”

There is much wisdom in this friend’s experience. After our formative and work years, most of us reach the third phase, which may or may not include paid work. Our friend works part time.

Without directly asking him what he yearns for, we experience him as a person with a unique joie de vivre, and whose choices are not based on age but on personality, family life, spiritual yearning, personal values, and cultural expansion derived from living in a foreign country (Mexico).

Regarding his question about “the metrics for success/satisfaction at our age,” we would encourage him to be clear about his deepest values, yearnings and means of satisfaction, as well as the needs of people and nature in today’s world. Balancing those factors is an evolving process that requires exploration, gratitude, patience and self-acceptance. Reaching out (and inward) for insight and support can make a big positive difference.

Our friend’s yearning is not primarily about stuff but about deeper experiences of what counts for him and his world in his life. As “bloggers about life” as we grow older, and, more importantly, as friends, we look forward to learning more about and supporting our friend’s yearning as well as his explorations, discoveries and affirmations in his third stage of life as it unfolds.

And, as they say in Mexico, “igualmente,” meaning the same goes for you and for us – as we grow older.

By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

Here we are at the start of another year. How many years have we been living and how much longer might we live?

People have varied attitudes about these existential questions. Some feel they have lived long enough, and they await their end. Others want to live indefinitely if they retain their physical and mental health, as well as meaningful activities and a support system. Still others want to live in the moment without concern about longevity. What are your feelings about your now and the duration of your future?

Jesus Castillo Rangel (Don Chuy), Mexico’s oldest man at 121 (Yes, 121!) died last month. At 14, he joined the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Married in 1922, he and his wife were together for 90 years until her death in 2012 at the age of 104. Mentally alert as ever, the oldest man in Mexico woke up on the day of his birthday last October, opened his window and breathed in the morning breeze. One of his neighbors said that Don Chuy usually walked around the neighborhood every day. “He’s a strong man, healthy, a good person and very respectful,” said the neighbor.

While most people don’t live past 100 (let alone 120), many of us in current times will live well into our 90’s if not to a centennial-or-beyond birthday. We may have vague feelings about how we want our future to unfold regarding, for example, our health, spiritual life, connection with communities, and contributions to improve the world near and afar.

Is now the time to clarify and decisively act upon those feelings? If not, what are we waiting for? If such feelings and decisions evoke a fear of aloneness, is there someone or a network or group with whom we can share them and welcome their caring input? Before taking any such steps forward, it might help to remind ourselves about all that we are grateful for and proud of in our lives to date. Then it can be one step at a time to add to what is positive and redeeming in our life story.

No matter our current age – 50’s or younger, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. We and our world deserve for us to build upon our past, to make life- and self-affirming changes going forward, and to welcome unplanned opportunities to grow in self-acceptance and solidarity with people close to us and with others in our local and world community. Let’s go for it while the going is good.

These days, as always, horrific natural and human made catastrophes are occurring, as close as California and as far as Myanmar. More than half a million Rohingya Muslim refugees, starving and exhausted, have been flooding into Bangladesh following waves of killings and abuse by Myanmar’s military. Closer to home, unprecedented northern California fires, that started more than a week ago, so far have killed more than 40 people (with 200 still missing), destroyed 5,700 properties, and forced 75,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Such disasters and atrocities also include recent merciless hurricanes in the U.S., terrorist mass killings in several countries, and a host of other unimaginably destructive natural disasters and taking of human lives by military/government and terrorist groups. What can we do as individuals who are busy with our own lives, but wanting to relieve and prevent human suffering and environmental destruction?

It is very challenging to face, respond to and act upon the overwhelming feelings of horror, sadness and empathy that such tragedies cause in us. Case in point: The devastating, record-breaking fires north of us in the wine country continue to dominate the news and to cause anxiety, sadness and feelings of helplessness for those of us who have not sustained any destructive loss.

However, we have been communicating with friends some of whose family and friends have lost their homes or been forced to evacuate without knowing whether they have a home to return to. Our friends have expressed deep appreciation for our concern and support.

What else can we do? We participated in a fund-raising dinner the proceeds of which were donated to a few of the nonprofits providing essential services to fire victims. What else can we do? Review and share information about disaster preparedness with friends in our area; and update our disaster prep kits and supplies in case a major earthquake or fire hits our home.

Each of us needs to explore what we can do to impact nature-caused disasters and human-caused injustices and atrocities. Offer your love, support and assistance to someone you know who suffered losses from fires in northern California. Make a contribution to an organization like Direct Relief (, the Environmental Defense Fund, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Support a promising, fledgling organization like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Explore needs and opportunities for volunteerism abroad.

A friend, whose home was threatened by the fire, wrote to people who had shared their concern and support: “Our meditation teacher, in her New Year’s Day talk this year, enjoined us to ‘breathe out gently the benevolent power of the heart’ in 2017. That is exactly what you are doing with your thoughts and wishes for us up here, and the results are miraculous. Speaking for everyone here, we are full of gratitude for your help.”

By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

The eloquent and charismatic Bishop Fulton J. Sheen inspired millions of Americans via radio, television and books throughout the mid-20th century. Countless people tuned into his weekly TV show, “Life Is Worth Living,” to hear his views, to experience the warmth and passion in his piercing eyes and to reflect on the meaning and purpose of their lives. Each of us has been influenced by inspirational figures and our life’s experience, but how do we determine whether at the end of our own life it has been worth living?

The answer to that question comes more easily for some than others. For many it changes as life changes them. Dreams can lead to disillusionment and pain, and despair can lead to hope and fulfillment. Whether we believe in an eternal hereafter or life that ends at the grave, what do we want to have in our hearts and have given to the world when our time comes? How clear and satisfying is our answer to this ultimate personal and individual question at this time in our lives?

At one level, how things are going for us and how we are feeling can influence our goals in life. Urgent matters and demanding personal and work obligations may leave us little time to get in touch with our deepest and ultimate goals. On the other hand, how often we have heard the advice “Live each day as if it were your last” or “You know not the day nor the hour.”

We want to balance our activities with our values. If we cannot afford the time to go on a spiritual retreat to review our life and clarify our goals, we can make some time today or very soon to focus on these needs. Even in the midst of busy days, we can make this happen. For example, we can reflect on how we feel about our life and what we most deeply want while we’re driving or walking somewhere, without the sounds of music or cell phone chatter.

As important as this is, there is a time for every purpose under heaven, to quote the Old Testament and a song by Pete Seeger. Two songs on Tony Bennett’s album, “Duets,” remind us to balance the deep and purposeful with the light and even frivolous. “If I Ruled the World” reminds us that we really want our life to count and “Are You Havin’ Any Fun?” encourages us to live in the moment and welcome the joys thereof.

At this point in your life’s journey, how would you assess the way it has gone so far? Your main values may be family and friends; career and calling; development of your talents and interests; contributing to community, social justice and the environment; living according to certain religious beliefs; kicking around and doing no harm; writing a book you feel the world needs; exploring the physical world and foreign cultures through travel; or only you know what else.

Are you happy with your goals? Do you want to make changes? Are you pleased to realize that overall you are satisfied and at peace? Or do you want to make it as much “our way” as “my way” going forward? If you ruled the world (your own or the outer one), how would you rule it? Are you havin’ any fun, son (or daughter)?

Life is about giving, receiving and coping. We are not all-powerful, but we can determine our hopes and attitude and give the world our all. As they say, today is the first day of the rest of our lives. How will our life be worth living?


By Sandra J. Cohen and Roger Cormier

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement,” Rachel Carson once wrote. “It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.”

It is true that as we move into adulthood, we face challenges, assume responsibilities, suffer disappointments, and find our waking hours filled with adult tasks. Some claim that grown-ups who retain some childlike behaviors should grow up, yet they often marvel at, enjoy, maybe even envy those who live in the moment and approach life with playful abandon.

Ironically, many think today’s children are forced to grow up too soon because they are placed in so many structured activities and exposed to more of the adult world than they probably should be. On the other hand, people from adolescence through advanced ages don’t feel they can give themselves permission, in playwright Tom Stoppard’s words, to “carry your childhood with you.”

Like so many of life’s paradoxes, we can convert this seeming either-or into a both-and approach that enriches our lives at any chronological age or state of development.

Sure, we may be busy, responsible and engaged in career, family and community, but we don’t have to let worries and fears keep us from enjoying activities associated with being a kid. Consider some of the ways we can be childlike today. On her website,, Lori Deschene offers these suggestions:

LEARN: Fill out your own permission slip to go to the aquarium, a museum or a nearby tourist attraction. If something looks interesting, take a break and go!

PLAY: Be silly. Look for funny things in your day and let yourself laugh about them.

CONNECT: Make a spontaneous play date. Invite people over right now, for no reason but to have fun.

CREATE: Assume you’d be really good at something — piano, rock climbing, organizing a club — and then find out, instead of assuming the opposite.

BE: Relax and do nothing. Don’t try to fill that empty pocket of time. You’ve been productive enough. Kick back, cut loose and let yourself waste a little time.

IMAGINE: Visualize a tomorrow with endless possibilities.

“It is never too late to have a happy childhood,” writes novelist Tom Robbins. What childlike quality in you is ready and eager to enjoy today?