Betty White’s Greatest Legacy

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Want to Live Longer? Take a Double Dose of Betty White.

The longevity supplement market is booming. Resveratrol, selenium, curcumin, lithium CoQ10, lipoic acid, and many more all claim to support healthy longevity. While many do have proven benefits, all pale in comparison to the benefits of a positive mindset. What we all really need is a double dose of Betty White.  

White passed away on New Year’s Eve just a couple weeks shy of her 100th birthday. The beloved actress comedian, writer, and producer won five Primetime Emmys and 16 Primetime Emmy nominations but if you ask me, reruns of “Golden Girls” are not her most important legacy. Her greatest contribution is the example she provided for joyous longevity.  White was an exemplar of the personality traits and lifestyle choices that are key to healthy and happy aging.  

1: The Ability to Adapt 

White’s career spanned eight decades because she was able to constantly adapt. She started on stage, moved into radio, and first appeared on television in 1939 on an experimental Los Angeles station. She evolved with the medium, appearing on sitcoms, game shows, talk shows, commercials and, of course, iconic comedy hits. At 88 years old, she hosted “Saturday Night Live.” No matter the genre, she always found a way to not only fit in but also stand out. Her ability to adapt helped her remain relevant in a constantly changing industry known for relegating older people to the sidelines. 

2: A Passion for Making a Difference 

On the 1954 Betty White Show, she made Arthur Duncan, a black tap dancer, the first African American regular on a variety television program. The show was based in Los Angeles and when it expanded nationwide the network received immediate backlash from stations and viewers in the South. White’s response to the threat of a boycott was, “He stays… Live with it!”  She then insisted that Duncan perform as frequently as possible. In retaliation, her show was canceled later that year.  

In the 60s and beyond she championed countless diversity and inclusion issues and became a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, speaking out in favor of marriage equality. “I don’t care who anybody sleeps with,” she said. “I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.” 

Her greatest passion was her life-long love for animals. White was a pioneering animal rights activist supporting and advocating for many animal charity organizations. Her death sparked the viral nationwide #BettyWhiteChallenge, a virtual event in which fans are asked to donate $5 on January 17th to animal rescues or shelters in her name.  

3: An Optimistic Spirit with a Sense of Humor 

White described herself as a “cockeyed optimist” and studies on healthy longevity have proven that a positive attitude and a sense of humor lead to a longer, healthier, happier life. “Enjoy life. Accentuate the positive, not the negative,” she said.  “It sounds so trite, but a lot of people will pick out something to complain about, rather than say, ‘Hey, that was great!’ It’s not hard to find great stuff if you look.”  White’s sense of humor permeated everything she did. When asked about her exercise routine she responded,” I have a two-story house and a very bad memory.” And her longevity diet? “Vodka and hot dogs are my favorites. Probably in that order.” 

4: A Desire to Keep Working  

Employment and census data reveal that only 3.5% of centenarians retire at 65. They continue to work because they find their work meaningful and fulfilling. These days, careers are rarely just one occupation that lasts for decades. The new retirement model is a series of passion driven jobs that keep you engaged in life. That’s how White lived –from one project to the next. She was looking forward to the next project, her 100th birthday party, when she passed away.  “Retirement is not in my vocabulary,” she said.  “They aren’t going to get rid of me that way.” 

5: A Fearless Curiosity 

White’s biggest key to success might have been her up-for-anything charm. She made a habit of stretching herself and saying “Yes!” to new challenges. “Just open your mind,” she said. “Stay interested in stuff. There are so many things I won’t live long enough to find out about, but I’m still curious about them. Ask and I will say yes unless it is something I really don’t like.”  

Betty White made us laugh but more importantly she showed us how to live.  

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