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Seniors treated to update on issues and living longer

May 30, 2003|By CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - After a morning spent talking to senior citizens and listening to a discussion about how to live longer, Gov. Bob Wise chuckled a bit when asked later how long he plans to be around.

"As long as the Lord permits me and not a day longer," Wise said.

Wise stopped by the Berkeley Senior Services' center on High Street Thursday, and updated senior citizens on issues that might be of interest to them, including the cigarette tax, the medical malpractice crisis and the military.

He told a group of around 75 that the state's National Guard units have been ranked No. 1 in readiness every month for the last five years.

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"I think that speaks to a tradition. They are values that were instilled in (the soldiers) by their parents and their grandparents," he said. "So much of West Virginia has come about by your efforts."

Also during his visit, Wise announced that the senior center will receive a $90,000 grant over two years to form an adult day-care program for those with Alzheimer's.

Hopefully the program will be replicated throughout the rest of the state, he said.

Lastly, Wise bestowed two Distinguished West Virginian certificates. One went to Harry Butler, 80, the other to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., physician Konrad Nau.

Active at the senior center, Butler once served on its board of directors as the building and grounds chairman. He still calls occasionally to check up on projects.

Born in Bunker Hill, W.Va., and a lifelong West Virginia resident, Butler said he was surprised to receive the honor - which Wise called the highest award he could confer.

Butler said he guessed he received the honor for his work with the center.

After Wise spoke, Nau addressed the crowd and offered some insights into how one might live longer.

People who have reached the age of 100 have credited exercise - like walking and gardening - owning a pet and having close friends as keys to living longer, along with sex, Nau said.

Nau said he was not referring to the type of sex everyone was imagining, but rather simple physical contact with another person.

Asked what got him to 80, Butler first spoke of his years in the U.S. Army, his service in World War II and Korea, then his physical condition.

"I've been blessed with good health," Butler said, right before telling how he underwent five-way bypass surgery.

Nau said that although the average person will live to be around 73, in Berkeley County that drops to 69.

Those 90 years old and older are the fastest-growing segment of the population, followed by those 85 and older. Three million baby boomers are expected to reach age 100, Nau said.

Although seniors are often portrayed by the media as frail and in nursing homes, the truth is most are active in their communities, despite having one or two ailments, he said.

Living longer is possible, Nau said, citing Okinawa, where the average person lives to be 81. More people there live to be 100 than in the United States.

In Okinawa, which is an island off the coast of Japan, a philosophy is followed under which people eat until they are 80 percent full. Plus, they pray daily, Nau said, which might help.

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