Want a longer life?

Jeff vonKaenel

My mom just had her third stroke.

She’s lucky to have my sister Rebecca and her grandson Ryan, along with other family members, to help her through the trials and tribulations of this chapter in her life. She also has the good folks at Kaiser Permanente and her new nursing home providing compassionate health care.

And then, there is her church. Members of the First Unitarian Church of San José have regularly dropped by to cheer her up, to help in her care, and to provide little gifts, all of which have made a profound difference to her.

These visits mean the world to my mom. She is lonely and scared. The visits remind her that people care for her and that she is loved. Recently, while visiting my mom, I had the opportunity to spend some time with several members of the church who routinely visit fellow church members in the hospital.

What a joy. The visitors are engaged, full-of-life people. The kind of people that are able to get eight hours of work done in just a couple of hours. They can bring hope to hopeless situations. And, although I did not ask, I expect they would say how much volunteering does for them.

Health experts agree. While eating, exercising and picking the right parents are all important, health-care specialists point out that community connections, including being involved with a religious organization, extends life expectancy.

Since studies have recently found that other expensive health treatments such as cholesterol-reducing drugs have very little impact upon life expectancy, I think it is time to promote something that the experts say does work. If developing commitments and helping others has such an important role in healthy living, then we should promote it.

Let’s run a TV ad that reflects the data. I envision an actor, playing a regular person saying, “My life lacked purpose. Did I really matter? I felt listless and unimportant. I craved clothes and cars, but after I purchased them, I felt empty inside. So, I went to see my doctor. And my doctor gave me a Commitment Prescription. I took my C.P. down to my local church. Now, I have been visiting patients at the hospital on Tuesdays, and on Wednesday afternoons I have been helping the cutest third graders learn to read. I feel great. My aches and pains do not bother me as much. I am so glad that my doctor gave me a C.P. and told me to turn off my television. I can’t believe how much free time I have now.”

An authoritative voice continues: “If you are feeling unimportant, listless or have other symptoms of a self-centered life, then you should ask your doctor about a Commitment Prescription. Possible side effects include less television watching and less joy in shopping. But you can count on a longer and healthier life.”

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.