Counselor's Corner

Positive people and longevity

Fred Cavaiani

This past weekend my wife, Alice, and I went to a 90th birthday for a wonderful lady. She was Alice’s next door neighbor in Detroit. She, her husband and four children were a big part of Alice’s childhood. This party was a grand reunion. Many people from my wife’s childhood were there. Ruth, the guest of honor, has a sharp mind and knew everyone. I asked myself at this celebration: “How does someone live this long? What is the secret? People came from as far east as Boston and as far west as Montana to celebrate this 90th birthday. What is it that helps people live to live to a ripe old age and be happy, joyful and free? Ruth, as long as I have known her, has always greeted people with a big welcoming smile. Her four children, not surprisingly, have always done the same thing. Over the last forty-five years, whenever I would be at a gathering where Ruth or her children were present I have always felt welcomed and embraced.

Then I remembered something. There is a small town in Pennsylvania that had been studied for its longevity of life. Many Italians lived in this town. A scientific study of this town showed that many of the residents had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They ate like most Italians eat, a lot of pasta and bread. Yet there was such high longevity. The town was known for its closeness and warmth. Neighbors were close. People looked out for each other. It was a happy town. The study concluded that that sense of feeling cared and loved and the joy of life were the main contributing factors for the longevity of life in this town.

I then thought of a close friend of mine. He is 73 years old. He is not in good health physically, yet he is one of the happiest people I know. He is determined that he will live until he is 100 years old. He has even put a date when he will be ready to transition to the next life if God so chooses. If he dies before this date I am sure he will be surprised. Yet by setting the goal to live to at least 100 years old it gives him an attitude that is positive and joyful. I think there is a good chance that he will make it to 100 years old. He enjoys life, never complains and seems to be always affirming people.

Some people say that “attitude is everything.” I am beginning to believe that this is true. It is important for each of us to stay in good health, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is even more important to have an attitude that is positive and loving towards ourselves and toward everyone we encounter. When I am around men and women with positive attitudes, I feel lighter and happier. It is like the energy in the air becomes uplifting. Maybe this energy between people holds the secret to health, happiness and longevity.

I am not naïve enough to think that we do not need good physical exercise to stay healthy. I know that an emotionally balanced life is something we all need. I also realize that developing our spiritual lives through discipline, meditation and open hearts and minds gives us a solid foundation and an uplifting wisdom of life. I strive for this everyday through exercise, meditation and a disciplined effort to embrace all my feelings.

Yet attitude is most important. If I allow myself to become crabby, critical and controlling I put myself in an emotional prison. I send out negative energy that will return to me even more negative. The old saying “what goes around comes around” is very true. What I give out to other people is what will come back to me.

So, if I give out love and hope to other people, love and hope will come back to me. If I send out loving energy, loving energy will come back to me. As I say this, I think of that small Italian town in Pennsylvania where the life longevity is so high. I think of someone like Ruth who has always been funny, kind and caring. I think of my friend Barry who laughs a lot and affirms people. And there are so many other people I know who are much older than me who still laugh, love, and look at life in a hopeful and loving manner. Most of the people that I have known who have made it to 90 years and older seem to be surrounded by love. These older people also give out much love to the world.

I am deciding that I am going to live until 105. With this decision, however, I will also decide to be a most loving, kind and optimistic person with everyone and with everything. If I live to my goal age of 105 that is well and good. What is more important is that I have created an atmosphere of happiness, freedom and joy to everyone around me. Maybe there will be many of us laughing together in our 90s because I decided to be happy, joyful and free at each moment of life. Whether we live a long life is not as important as the effort we made to live in love and hope. That is what brings this world to a level of hope, freedom and love. It is a great way to live – to have a positive, loving attitude that sends out positive and hopeful energy into the world. When we do this, no one loses.


Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage and family therapist and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and Henry Ford Medical Center. He conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeastern Michigan. His column in the Legal News runs every other Tuesday. He can be reached at (248)362-3340. His e-mail address is: and his website is