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Stay happy, and you may live longer

While the medical community works on extending life and staving off the physical effects of aging, other experts focus on the mental, spiritual and emotional health of older Americans.

These people, and some elderly and very cheery non-experts, are featured in Live Happy magazine’s special section on “happiness during life’s second half.”

One article points to a study at University College London that indicates that seniors with higher levels of positive feeling hang on to daily living skills longer.

Another cites a North Carolina State University study showing that older adults who regularly played video games had lower levels of depression than those who didn’t.

Judith Orloff, a California psychiatrist, talks about the value of acceptance: “Once you surrender that fear of aging, the fear of being sick, the fear of dying — then you can truly enjoy your life.” She adds: “Keep a sense of humor.” That is echoed in an interview with actress Cloris Leachman, 88, the oldest person to have appeared on “Dancing With the Stars.”

Cloris Leachman was in her 80s when she appeared in “Dancing With The Stars” — just for the fun of it. (Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Associated Press)

She admits her dancing was something of a joke — she never got a better score than 5 out of 10 — but that was the point; she had a lot of fun.

“There is always something good about the day. It’s all in how you choose to look at things,” she says.

Finally, there’s a bit of encouragement to give ourselves treats as we get older: Studies show that one or two drinks a day, and one or two cups of coffee are better than none; and people who are slightly overweight in their 70s tend to live longer than those who are underweight.

Remember, that was one or two drinks, and slightly.

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