The Longevity Project


What factors lead to a long life?

Eating the right foods? Vigorous exercise everyday? Supplements? A happy marriage? Optimism?


The answer it seems is none of the above.

Over the years we have had antidotal answers to this question.

We have had wild guesses.

We have had outright lies.

But until a few months ago, no definitive answer.

In March of this year Hudson Street Press published a 272 page book unassumingly titled, The Longevity Project. The authors, Howard Friedman, PhD and Leslie Martin PhD at the University of California, Riverside drew on the findings of an eighty year study that is still ongoing to take a look at this ago old question.

At the Longevity Project website, Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, wrote of this project:

In 1921, before most of us were born, a remarkable study began tracking the loves and lives of 1500 Americans from childhood to death. The study continues even today, with research teams led by Howard Friedman still keeping tabs on the remaining few who are still alive and analyzing massive amounts of data to establish what it is precisely about these 1500 individuals that led some to stay well and others to fall ill or die before their time.

I have not read the book. I am on the wait list at the library. But I am getting antsy. So I may just have to break one of my budgeting rules and actually purchase a hard back edition of this book at full cost because I am so eager to get inside of it.

Mostly because it seems that the road to longevity has little to do with or obsessing over what we eat, how much we exercise, or our stress levels. As regular readers here know, that is kind of the drum I beat around here. I am an eat, drink, and be merry sort of gal.

While I have not read the book yet, I have read several reviews of the book and several magazine articles about the book. I have also scoured The Longevity Project website. (See link above.)

Following is just a bit of what I have found out.

The Introduction of The Longevity Project book can be found at their website. In the Intro there is a list of commonly held beliefs of what leads to a long life. The authors tell you straight out whether these are true or myths. Most all of them are myths. You can read those by clicking the following link: Myths link. (About half way down the page)

My favorite quote from the Introduction to the book is this:

Exercise, diet, stress, and weight are indeed relevant to health, but in ways that vary from person to person. Lists of dos and don’ts are nearly impossible for most of us to follow for days, months, and years.

The Atlantic magazine review and interview with the author of the study is the best of the articles I read. Following is the quote that stood out most for me: 

One breakthrough finding was that conscientious children and conscientious adults stay healthier and live significantly longer. [Emphasis mine.]

That is an amazing finding! Finally those of us who are persnickety have some thing to shout about!!

According to the Amazon  book review there is no magic pill to longevity and that what we think makes for a long life turns out to be mostly wrong.

According to The New York Times, it appears the key traits to longevity are prudence and persistence.

I give National Public Radio an A+ for the best title:  It’s Not All About  Broccoli. The book has several self-assessment tests in it. NPR publishes one of them. To take this self-assessment test click the broccoli link above. It is toward the end of this very short article.

Just FYI, I got a 48 on the test.

Over at The Week magazine they list the five key traits of longevity and the Slate website also has a pretty good summary of the book.

Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence closes their brief review of this book with:

……this changes the conversation about living a long, healthy life.

One kinda, sorta, maybe surprise I am really eager to learn more about since I was a first grade teacher for years and years is this,

….. starting formal schooling at a very early age turned out not to be a very good idea for most. Children need unstructured play time, and they need to get along with their peers; starting out young seemed to alienate them.”

Quote from Howard Friedman from The Atlantic magazine interview.

And last, meet and listen to the authors yourself from this You Tube video.



Featured Recipe          
Green Onions and Ham Potato Pancakes

I got this recipe from the mother of an ex-boyfriend.

These potato pancakes are great for breakfast, but equally as good as a potato side to any meat entrée.

These are super delicious. Today I am making the recipe as given to me. But over the years I have discovered you can put anything in these little pancakes. I like to use them to use up leftovers, especially fresh herbs. A mixture of parsley and chives is good, as is rosemary and thyme.

Be creative. Use what ever you think you will like. I have even put left over peas in them.

This is what you will need for 4 people (12 -15 pancakes)

1-20 ounce bag refrigerated hash browns

8 ounces of chopped ham

3-4 green onions

2 very generous tablespoons flour

2 large eggs

1 – 3 tablespoons Canola oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: Sour crem

Here is what you do:

Slice the green onions very thin.

Dump the hash browns into a large bowl.

Dump in the ham and the chopped onions.

Mix together well. I use my hands. It is much easier and quicker than a spoon or spatula.

Add the flour.

Lightly beat the eggs.

Add the eggs and mix well. Again, I use my hands.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil in a non-stick skillet. It must be a non-stick skillet or the pancakes will fall apart when you try to turn them. I know. Becasue I tried once.

I use Canola oil because it can stand high heat better than most oils. And you want medium high to high heat to brown these little darlings.

Scoop some of the mixture in large spoonfuls and place in the hot oil.

Using a spatula flatten the potato cakes, add some salt and pepper and sauté 5-6 minutes per side till nicely browned.

When browned on one side, flip the potato cake and brown on the other side.

NOTES: Do not crowd the potato cakes in the skillet or they may not brown very well. In a large skillet 4-5 pancakes at a time are enough.

To keep done potato cakes warm until you sit down to eat place them on a cooking sheet and place in a warm oven till all of them are done.

You may also need to add a bit more Canola oil to the skillet in between batches. I add about 1 tablespoon at a time.

OTHER NOTES: it took me several times making this recipe to make the pancakes hold their shape and not fall apart when I tried to turm them. The trick is to leave them alone for at least 5-6 minutes on the first side. Don’t flip them too early. When you see the edges starting to get brown and slightly hard, then you can turn them. It will not take as long for the other side to brown once you turn them.

You can also make these like regular hash browns if you wish. Just dump the mixture into a skillet and cook as you would regualr hash browns.

In case your pancakes crumble you can serve as regular hash browns by breaking them all up.

Plate and serve.

If using the sour cream add about a teaspooon on each potato cake.

How ever you make them…………

Bon Appetit!!


1-20 oz bag hash browns                  $1.84

8 ounces of chopped ham                  $2.59

3-4 green onions                               $0.28

2 tablespoons flour                            $0.11

2 large eggs                                     $0.22

1-3 tablespoons Canola oil                 $0.15

Salt and pepper to taste

Total cost = $5.19
Cost per person = $1.30 

If using sour cream on your potato panckaes it will add about $0.30 total to the cost of the recipe.

Quote of the Day

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me.

Erma Bombeck


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4 comments to The Longevity Project

  • These look so easy and I know my children would just gobble them up. Plus I am thinking they would make a great small appetizer maybe with pancetta instead of ham. Thanks for the great recipe.

  • Looks like all that hard work paid off. I now need to add my name at the library too, although then I also need to find the time to add another book to my current four going. Such is life. I’m into the persistance leading to a long life. After all, being persistant is a choice.

    The recipe looks wonderful. They remind me of latkes. Don’t you love how potatoes can add so much to a meal for so little?

    • Roberta

      You and I are so much alike…persistence pays off. It really does. I love potatoes for the same reason. An inexpensive meal wrapped in some skin.