Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/247

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235
WHY GROW OLD?

would the average life be, and how much more pleasant would life become! One of the greatest barriers to the enjoyment of life in old age is the condition that this young man dreaded; and my experience is that the food of old people is by no means always what it is wise for them to take. It seems to be the general opinion that old people should be always eating, that they should be stuffed, and that farinaceous food is what they should principally take. This, every one knows, tends to develop corpulency, which is, as I have explained, a most undesirable condition.

I find that if old people are put on a good meat diet in the way of strong soup, beef tea, and animal food, and only just sufficient farinaceous food and fats and sugar to maintain the heat of the body, they increase wonderfully in energy and, as they often express it, feel twenty years younger. This is only natural; it is a food of energy; the food that builds up muscle, nerve, and constitutional stamina.

The requirements of the system in old age, as a rule, are not very great, and more harm is done by taking too much food than by taking too little. I have known people considerably over seventy derive the greatest benefit from a thorough change in diet. It seems to rejuvenate them. Of course, in old age care should be taken that the body is not subjected to rapid changes of temperature. When the nervous power is decreasing as the result of age, and the system is losing the power of combating cold and strain upon its energy, a stimulating diet invigorates, and is conducive to maintaining constitutional stamina better than any other.

Any natural death but from old age and general decay is an accidental death; that is, it is due to causes which might, and even perhaps could, have been entirely avoided and remedied in earlier years. But, of course, all the secrets of attaining extreme age are not even now within our reach, and the few that I have pointed out are but a very few, and those of the commonest. It is the inevitable law of Nature that we must die. The vital energy that is implanted in the body at birth is only meant to sustain it for a certain number of years. It may be husbanded or wasted, made to burn slowly or rapidly. It is like the oil in a lamp, and may be burned out to little effect in a little time, or carefully husbanded and preserved, and thus made to last longer and burn brighter. It is a moot question whether every individual is not at birth gifted with the same amount of vital energy and of life-sustaining power. The probability is that each is. The circumstances of the environment from the cradle to the grave determine its future destiny. •

It is a well-known fact that half of the infants born in certain