Of course, there's not an answer, though several are presented. The now-lead researcher Valliant named seven "major factors that predict healthy aging:"
Employing mature adaptations was one. The others were education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight.These are all forehead-smackingly obvious, and I do pretty well by this metric (though my education is not yet complete and I'm unmarried). But later the article reports that good adjustment in youth/early adulthood (right where I am) is no predictor for health and happiness in old(er) age.
In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”Again, this seems obvious. (I have to work on this one.)
Shenk's unacknowledged assumption in writing the article is that everyone wants to live to a healthy, happy, bad-memory-obliterating old age. It seems like one of Valliant's goals for the study is to determine some guidelines, or at least predictive factors, for achieving healthy, happy old age. We'll never find out what the self-evaluations are of the study participants who died young. If self-evaluations are what really matters, then those who lived and lived happily are successful, merely by the fact of their happiness.
Bah, humbug. The article was interesting -- I'd recommend that you read it -- but questionable in its romantic portrayal of the way that valiant Valliant kept the study alive. And the "poetry" of the very subjective parts of the study. The ideas of a scientific study is divorced from this researcher-dependent qualitative study, but this makes for such fun reading. (Hat tip: postpostpre via A. via C.)
This post's theme word: kismet, "ineluctable destiny, fate."