Dr. Saburo Shochi, who celebrated his 104th birthday this past August 16, recently completed his fifth international lecture tour. Dr. Shochi visited five countries and spoke on the topics of early education for children and his own longevity. He is the founder of the “Educational Society For 3-year-olds,” where, among other things, he demonstrates educational toys he creates out of recycled materials.
On November 22, Dr. Shochi spoke at the 63rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in New Orleans. The symposium was titled: “Cross-National Conversations on Healthy Aging and Longevity with One Who Has Arrived: a 104-Year-Old Japanese Physician.”
Dr. Leonard W. Poon, director of the Institute of Gerontology at the University of Georgia, introduced Dr. Shochi as “an exceptional person from the perspective of biology and genetics, but more importantly, he is exceptional for his motivation, personality and lifestyle.” Dr. Poon believes that heredity and genetics account for 30-percent of one’s longevity while lifestyle accounts for 70-percent, thus explaining Dr. Shochi’s healthy constitution at his advanced age.
According to Dr. Craig Wilcox, professor of International Health and Gerontology at Okinawa International University, “we have a lot to learn about healthy aging from Dr. Shochi such as having a sense of purpose, being active, engaging socially, and maintaining a positive outlook in life.”
Dr. Bradley Wilcox, medical director at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu and associate clinical professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Hawaii, exhibited for the audience the results of one of Dr. Shochi’s recent medical tests. Two years ago, Dr. Wilcox’s Honolulu medical team discovered a gene that can double one’s likelihood of living to be a centenarian. Dr. Shochi possesses that gene.
Also present was Dr. Peter Martin, professor and director of Gerontological Program at the University of Georgia, who through dialogue with Dr. Shochi, has explored facets of the centenarian’s personality and methods for coping with stress and crises.
After expressing appreciation to the four professors for inviting him to the symposium and to the audience, Dr. Shochi related his experience. His first two children, both of whom had been born with cerebral palsy, were constantly bullied at school. The bullying was so severe that one of his children was pushed down a stairwell. Ultimately, they ended up having to stay home, often watching through the window as the other children going to school This led Dr. Shochi to establish a school for the physically and mentally challenged. To fund the project, he sold his family property and opened the Shiinomi Gakuen School in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1954.
The new school was met by many challenges. For instance, early on one troublesome student bit Dr. Shochi’s hands seven times. His initial feeling was to hope that the child would stop attending the school; but he told himself not to give up and strove to find and develop the child’s merit. This resulted in his further motivation to study about children. Dr. Shochi shared 10 secrets of his longevity.
• sense of humor
• rubs himself with a cold wet towel on waking
• baton exercise
• spiritual devotion
• chewing every mouthful 30 times
• learning foreign languages
• reading and staying aware of current events
• talking with friends
• sleeping on his back
Before concluding, he led the audience in a baton exercise and performed thekurodabushi, a traditional Japanese fan dance.
As Dr. Shochi told this reporter, it was through the encouragement of his mentor — ICAP-founder Dr. Daisaku Ikeda — whom he met ten years ago, that his life opened up dramatically. When he turned 100, he set off on his first world tour, during which he presented his first overseas lecture in English. That event took place in 2005 at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, California.
In the last five years, Dr. Shochi has delivered more than 500 lectures, including those at such institutions as Harvard University, UCLA, Columbia University, University of Hawaii, Pembroke College in Cambridge (U.K.), Heidelberg University, UNESCO, Moscow University, Sao Paulo University, Helsinki University and the Berlin Free University.
On November 23, Dr. Shochi appeared on New Orleans’ WWLTV Eyewitness Morning News where he shared his longevity secrets and demonstrated his daily baton exercise.