The Wisdom of a 105-Year-Old Japanese Doctor: A Catholic Perspective on Longevity and Well-being

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Shigeaki Hinohara, a 105-year-old Japanese doctor, shared 12 principles that have guided him toward a long and fulfilling life. While not inherently religious, these principles find resonance in the teachings of the Catholic Church and the wisdom found in the Scriptures. In this article, we explore the intersection between Dr. Hinohara’s principles and Catholic teachings on living a good life, emphasizing the importance of spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.

Principle 1: Don’t Retire, but Always Stay Active

Keeping the Spirit and Body Active

Dr. Hinohara advocates for a life full of purpose and engagement, irrespective of age. This reflects the Catholic view of life as a journey toward God, where our talents and abilities should be used for the betterment of society and the glory of God.

The Bible tells us to “do everything for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Catechism of the Catholic Church also emphasizes the dignity of work, stating that “human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God” (CCC, 2427).

Universal vs. Personal Interpretation

The idea of not retiring is not a universal teaching of the Church, but one could argue that staying mentally, spiritually, and physically active is in line with living a full life as envisioned by Catholic teaching.

Principle 2: Take the Stairs and Carry Your Own Stuff

The Virtue of Self-Reliance

In recommending physical activity, Dr. Hinohara echoes the Catholic emphasis on treating the body as a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Maintaining our bodily health serves a higher purpose; it allows us to serve others and God more effectively.

Context and Relevance

The principle encourages physical work, which is aligned with the Catholic view that “work honors the Creator’s gifts and the talents received from him” (CCC, 2427).

Principle 3: Share Your Knowledge

Teaching and Evangelizing

Dr. Hinohara’s advice to share knowledge resonates strongly with the Church’s mission to evangelize. Jesus himself commanded his followers to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

The Importance of Wisdom

Sharing wisdom is not just good advice; it’s a moral imperative. In the Catholic tradition, wisdom is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC, 1831).

Principle 4: Don’t Worry Too Much About Material Possessions

The Danger of Materialism

Dr. Hinohara warns against becoming overly attached to material goods, a view consistent with Jesus’ teaching: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

Context and Relevance

According to the Catechism, “Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of heaven” (CCC, 2544). Dr. Hinohara’s principle finds relevance here as it encourages a focus on non-material well-being.

Principle 5: Remember: You Are What You Eat

The Catholic View on Temperance

Maintaining a balanced diet falls under the virtue of temperance, which the Catechism describes as “the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods” (CCC, 1809).

Scripture and Eating

The Bible also contains many references to eating in moderation. Proverbs 25:16 cautions, “If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it, and you will vomit.”

Principle 6: Find a Role Model

Saints as Role Models

Catholic tradition offers a plethora of role models in the form of saints. The Catechism states that “by canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her” (CCC, 828).

Context and Relevance

Dr. Hinohara’s advice to find a role model aligns closely with the idea of looking up to saints as examples of how to live a virtuous life.

Principle 7: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

The Virtue of Joy

Dr. Hinohara speaks to the importance of maintaining a happy disposition. In the Scriptures, the Apostle Paul advises, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Universal Teaching

The pursuit of joy is a universal aspiration, and in the Catholic context, the ultimate joy is found in union with God.

Principle 8: Take Time to Give

Almsgiving and Charity

Catholic teaching places great emphasis on the act of giving. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Context and Relevance

Dr. Hinohara’s principle aligns with this, affirming the joy and fulfillment that come from acts of charity.

Principle 9: Take Initiative

Catholic Teaching on Initiative

The Church encourages us to be co-creators with God. As mentioned earlier, “work honors the Creator’s gifts and the talents received from him” (CCC, 2427).

Context and Relevance

Taking initiative is in line with the Catholic vision of proactively using our God-given talents for the common good.

Principle 10: Keep Learning

The Importance of Learning

The Church has always been a proponent of learning and education. “All men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church, and to embrace it and hold on to it as they come to know it” (CCC, 2104).

Principle 11: Don’t Be Crazy About Amassing Wealth

Detachment from Wealth

As mentioned under Principle 4, detachment from material goods is a key teaching of the Church. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25).

Principle 12: Find a Pastime That Lets You Be Creative

Creativity as a Divine Trait

Being made in the image of God, creativity is a divine trait. Engaging in creative activities is thus another way of honoring God’s gifts.

Context and Relevance

This principle is not explicitly found in Catholic teaching but is consistent with the idea that using our talents glorifies God.


Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara’s principles for a long life find a surprising but welcome echo in Catholic teaching and the Scriptures. Though not inherently religious, they are very much in line with a life that is lived virtuously and in accordance with God’s laws. Living a good, fulfilling, and long life is not just about following a set of principles; it is about aligning our lives so that we may better serve others and, ultimately, God.

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Note: While content aims to align with Catholic teachings, any inconsistencies or errors are unintended. For precise understanding, always refer to authoritative sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Always double-check any quotes for word-for-word accuracy with the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

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