For as long as I can remember, my father has loved playing Santa Claus.
Now in his 90s, he still maintains a busy December calendar of charity Santa appearances. And like the jolly old elf himself, he’s continuing to live a productive and fulfilling life well into his golden years.
Is there some connection between playing Santa and longevity?
Well there are certain Santa lifestyle characteristics (along with some good genetics) that would contribute to a long, healthy life. Here’s a look at some of my dad’s Santa secrets:
A lot of “Ho-Ho-Ho”
That deep-throated laugh we associate with Santa is a natural stress-reducer. And when your mandate is simply to spread good cheer, it’s easy to bring on the smiles.
Putting on the red suit makes my father so happy. He’s perfectly comfortable being in the spotlight, and he clearly loves it.
Merry Mission: Having a Life Purpose
This is a piece of advice that my dad passed on years ago. He’s seen a lot of people retire from their careers and how many literally didn’t know what to do with themselves once they stopped working. “You either need a career where you follow your passion, or you need to develop your passion outside of your job”, he maintains.
My father has many interests that keep him active: making maple syrup, playing pool, fundraising for mental health, and of course – playing Santa Claus.
The Santa job isn’t just a one-month gig either. He starts growing his beard and hair in the summer so he can look the part come December. Appearances have to be lined up (he doesn’t do anything for money, unless it’s for charity), and he keeps fairly fit so he can easily get around and perform the physical skills that Santa would be required to do.
While my father doesn’t follow a specific exercise program, he’s certainly active for a 90-year old. Living in the country, he gets outside almost every day, carries wood, goes for the occasional paddle in his canoe, walks, plays with the dog, and isn’t afraid of manual work.
Santa may be portrayed as overweight, but he certainly has to be able to lift children, maneuver through party crowds (and squeeze into tight chimneys when required).
He’s quite comfortable getting up and down off the floor (a key factor in longevity). Seeing him sit on the floor with the kids at a recent party is a testament to his strength and mobility.
Making Spirits Bright
Embracing the spirit of giving surely has a connection with longevity. For my father, it means he’s socially active and integrated into his local community.
When he was 80, he started a charity pool tournament to raise money for mental health. 10 years later, the Stuart Carver Bonny Lea Tournament is not only still going, but my father usually comes in among the top three players.
Proceeds go to buy Christmas presents for the residents of Bonny Lea Farm in Nova Scotia, a facility for special-needs youth and adults. And each and every December, he puts on his red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, black leather belt and boots, and hands out the gifts from his bag. For the people at Bonny Lea Farm, he truly is Santa.
Riding Herd on the Reindeer
That pool tournament requires some serious managerial skills to put on every year. That helps keep his mind occupied with varied activities, particularly activities that require communication, organizational, fundraising and sales skills.
There’s no question that mental health affects longevity, so the key message here is to train your brain. Older adults who stay mentally active are more resistant to cognitive decline and even dementia.
North Pole Stress Reduction
My father has amazing patience, something that’s needed when working with children. Part of my dad’s job has him working with young adults with mental health issues, and he’s got the perfect soothing temperament for that. That not only makes for a great Santa, the low stress is an aide to his optimal aging.
My father would say it’s the most enjoyable job ever. No wonder he’s practically in character throughout the whole season, along with the jollies and “ho-ho-ho’s”.
Living out your later years through the eyes of a little kid certainly has its benefits. You may not be Santa Claus – but you can control many of your lifestyle factors.
Which factors will ensure your better chances at living a long and healthy life?