I know our Queen has incredible advantages when it comes to longevity: palaces, retinues of staff, the country’s best doctors….. but isn’t she ageing well?! And, despite her obvious privileges, there are lessons we can all learn from Her Majesty as we head towards the Platinum Jubilee here in the UK. So a trumpet voluntary, please, for our right royal Age-Well celebration….
SHE HAS A SENSE OF PURPOSE
Her sense of duty is incredible, isn’t it? Through the toughest times, the early death of her father, family dramas, losing Prince Phillip – she’s kept calm and carried on. That purpose, to serve her country, drives her forward. As we’ve written in our books The Age-Well Project and The Age-Well Plan, having a sense of purpose gives us the power to plan for the future we want, and the strength to go after it. All the super-ager nonagenarians Annabel interviewed for the Project have fantastically well developed purpose, and grit.
Interestingly, former US presidents have incredible longevity for the same reason: Jimmy Carter is 97! George Bush Snr was 94 when he died, Gerald Ford was 93, so was Ronald Regan (although he had Alzheimer’s). Engaging in the meaningful work of being a leader of the free world correlates with longevity, it seems.
SHE’S ALWAYS DOING NEW THINGS
All those royal walkabouts might seem like a drag, but they’re constantly exposing HM to new experiences. As we get older, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut, following the same patterns that we’ve followed for years, if not decades. We seek comfort in the familiar. But our ageing brains thrive on newness and novelty. We need to keep challenging ourselves, keeping our brains busy and curious.
Novelty – as we’ve written previously here – stretches our brains, making them work harder and build new neuro-pathways. We need to stimulate our minds all the time: life-long learning, volunteering and meeting new people all fit the bill. All activities HM undertakes on an almost daily basis.
SHE’S ALWAYS SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE….
Relations between members of the Royal Family may be strained at times, but you’re never alone with a family that size (not to mention all the staff…..) Having extensive social ties have been linked to fewer health problems and living longer. Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality. One study found that a lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — roughly the same effect as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
….AND SHE TALKS TO STRANGERS
All the shaking of hands and greeting people is giving her brain one of the toughest workouts we can experience. A simple interaction with a stranger gives the brain so much to process. In an experiment where strangers spoke to each other in a waiting room, all ended up happier as a result. Chatting to people we meet on the street, or bus, or in a coffee shop, may be beyond our comfort zone, but it’s great for our cognitive health.
SHE GETS OUTSIDE
Of course, the Queen’s got palaces and many thousands of acres in which to do so. But her love of the countryside is well known. She might not be pumping iron, but she walks daily and rides her horses whenever she can. We don’t have to roam around Balmoral to reap the benefits of being outside. Just a few minutes in nature each day reduces stress – we’ve written about that here.
SHE LOVES DOGS
We love dogs too, and have written about the joy of a new puppy, and the sadness of losing a beloved companion. Dogs give us extra exercise, companionship – stroking a pet has been found to raise levels of the love hormone oxytocin – and owners have a great variety of gut bacteria.
Those outfits! We all know how the Queen dresses – bright dopamine colours which can be spotted in a crowd and look good on the front cover of Hello! Surely those bright colours – canary yellow for opening the Elizabeth Line last week, coral for Chelsea Flower Show this week – must be as cheering for her as they are for us. Taking care of ourselves, taking pride in our appearance, presents a positive front to the world and, in turn, makes us feel happier.
SHE EATS LIGHTLY – MOST OF THE TIME
Royal chefs have revealed that when the Queen’s not banqueting like a, well, queen, she eats lightly. It’s fish and vegetables for lunch, maybe meat or game for dinner. She’s very keen on local and seasonal produce – easy if it’s come off your own estate, of course. But we can all look for food that hasn’t travelled halfway around the world to reach our plates.
Recipes for a Jubilee weekend
If you’re in the UK – and maybe elsewhere – you may find yourself at a street party or other gathering, and need to bring a dish. We don’t seem to have the same culture of ‘pot luck’ parties as our American cousins, so ‘bringing a dish’ needs thought. I have, very clearly, been asked NOT to bring Coronation Chicken to our street party this time. I may have overdone it at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations 10 years ago.
So here are a few of our favourite recipes from the archives that could work for an outdoor gathering, whether you’re celebrating the Platinum Jubilee or not: