At 92, Bob Sonnenfeld has learned an important lesson about exercise.
“It never gets any easier,” he said.
Every morning, Sonnenfeld gets up and jogs on his indoor trampoline for about 20 minutes. He has always been active — and he has lived a healthy life much longer than the average Oklahoman.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published Thursday looked at how many years a person lives after age 65 — and how many of those years are lived healthy.
The average Oklahoman lives about 18 years after turning 65, but only 12 of those years are lived healthy, according to the report.
Many factors influence a person's health status as they age, including safe and healthy living environments; healthy behaviors, such as exercise and not smoking; getting the recommended clinical preventive services, such as vaccines, cancer screenings and blood pressure checks; and having access to good quality health care when it is needed, according to the CDC study.
Oklahomans live shorter lives with fewer healthy years than nearly every other state in the nation, other than Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia.
Living a long life
Sonnenfeld, of Oklahoma City, attributes his long, healthy life not only to his exercise routine, but also to the joy he gets from his family. He was married to his wife Nell for 50 years. She died in 2010, and it's still hard for him to talk about. She was the love of his life.
It's easier for him to remember the countries that he and Nell didn't go to. Their travels are represented in Sonnenfeld's miniature liquor bottle collection: more than 1,100 small bottles that sit in cases in his home.
On many of the bottles, he has written where they came from. “1994 Amsterdam” on a small jug of Devon Mead. “Greece 1995” on a bottle of Ouzo, a popular Greek drink. Other bottles read Germany, Scotland and Ireland.
“We loved Ireland,” he said. “Of course, we loved everywhere we went.”
Sonnenfeld, a World War II veteran, ran an insurance business for more than 40 years. He said he encourages young people to work at a place where they can be happy and devoted to what they do.
“Otherwise, you won't live a happy life with it.”
Loraine Colbert, of Oklahoma City, has worked a lot of jobs in her 81 years.
Colbert, who has lived in Oklahoma most of her life, remembers being the first black person to work at a large Oklahoma City loan company. And she also was one of the first black people to work at Kerr-McGee Corp.
Colbert finished high school in Guthrie in 1949. There weren't many, if any, scholarships available for black students, so she worked in a library to pay for classes at Langston University, she said.
A lot has changed since then, something that Colbert is grateful for.
“People have begun to realize blood is red, and you're all just different colors,” she said.
At 81, Colbert has lived a healthy life longer than many black Oklahomans. A racial disparity still exists between the life and healthy life expectancy of white and black residents, according to the CDC's report.
White Oklahomans live an average of about 12 healthy years out of the 18 they live after turning 65. But black residents live almost 17 years, with only 10 of them healthy, according to the CDC data.
In another recent study, researchers as the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics found that in 2010, life expectancy for the black population was almost four years lower than that of the white population. This difference was because of higher death rates for the black population for heart disease, cancer, homicide, diabetes and perinatal conditions, according to the study released Thursday.
Since 1900, the trend in U.S. life expectancy has been one of gradual improvement, according to the report. For the white population, life expectancy increased 10 percent, and for the black population, the increase was 17 percent. Nevertheless, differences in life expectancy by race have been observed and have persisted at least since official estimates have been recorded, according to the report.
At 81, Colbert has stayed active through volunteering. She visits residents in their 80s and 90s as part of Sunbeam's Senior Companion Program. Sunbeam Family Services is a nonprofit organization that serves central Oklahoma's poor and working poor residents.
Colbert sees her volunteering as a way to practice the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Colbert hopes that if she ever needs help, someone will be there to help her, like she has helped so many older Oklahomans.
“You just don't throw people away,” she said.