By now, Dr. Ephraim Engleman is used to the question: “You’re how old?!”
He answers honestly: “103.”
Then he changes the subject, since it’s clear there is lots more to talk about than his birthdate.
An arthritis specialist who still practices, Engleman is a busy centenarian. On any given day, he might be driving his red Cadillac to the University of California San Francisco research center that now bears his name and which he directs – the Rosalind Russell-Ephraim Engleman Rheumatology Research Center – or to perform violin. Or he might be going home to spend time with Jean, 98, his wife of 73 years.
If history repeats, he may also be preparing to do his now famous Mick Jagger imitation.
Although not without ailments, Engleman sees patients and practices violin religiously. Last year, he self-published his memoir, My Century, which he is selling on Amazon. Proceeds are going, not surprisingly, to arthritis research.
Among his 10 ingredients for longevity: Choose your parents wisely, don’t weigh yourself, keep an active mind – and keep breathing.
On a recent Friday afternoon, “Eph” took a breather to talk to Senior Planet by phone.
Your life has been a mix of music and medicine. How have they kept you happy?
Music is a wonderful avocation for me. Medicine of course is my vocation, based on the mind. The collaboration of the two, at least in my case, has made for a very happy century.
I belong to a men’s club in San Francisco dedicated to the arts. I do a lot of writing and music with them. We recently did a concert of George Gershwin music. I play four or five days a week. I’m in a chamber music quartet, and we play together every week. We perform, too, at the Family Club.
Im medicine, the thing that keeps me happy and excited is the work being done at our center. We train young physicians, we call them fellows – it’s the finest arthritis training program in the country. I occasionally go and talk to the fellows, and I get great pleasure out of that.
Besides seeing patients, I am very much involved in fundraising for arthritis research. This is where I get the greatest satisfaction, being able to raise money to compensate for what we used to get from the National Institutes of Health.
I have a lunch date today with a potential donor. He’ll be coming to my office. I’ll talk to him; his family has given in the past and I’m anxious to repeat that contribution. The goal is to get as much as I can get.
We’ve heard you have a wicked sense of humor. Any examples?
I do? Well, that is flattering.
Let me think.… Who is that English guy who sings “Can’t Get No Satisfaction”? Oh yes, Mick Jagger. I once imitated him, wearing a wig, at my men’s club in San Francisco. I got an ovation. Yes, a standing ovation.
You sound energetic and robust. Any health problems?
I guess for my age, I’m very healthy. But I walk like an old man. My major physical problem is my back. I use a cane and sometimes I use a walker. If I have to go long distances, I’ll ask someone to push me in a wheelchair.
I did have a minor cardiac thing three or four years ago – I had a stent put in.
Do you exercise?
As little as possible. I’ve never been enthusiastic about exercise. I frankly feel this push to exercise is over-emphasized. The only thing I do consistently is play the violin.
What does aging with attitude mean to you?
Staying active. I’m very active. I think it’s important to keep active. I hate to see retirement leading to no continuing intellectual stimulation. If someone has something that will keep them intellectually busy in retirement, that’s fine.
I have no immediate intention of retiring unless the good Lord says so, health wise. I work at the discretion of the department of medicine. As long as they will tolerate me, I will stick around.
Are you on Facebook?
Never heard of it.
What has been the most exciting technological invention in your lifetime?
I guess maybe television. And of course automobiles.
You’ll be 104 in March. Any plans yet?
We’re having a little party. Not as big as the one for 100. We had about 100 people at that one.
Are we invited?
Dr. Engleman’s 10 quirky tips for longevity
No diets or devotion to exercise, don’t weigh yourself, see a doctor only if you must… What do you think of these tips? Let us know in the comments section below!