The year is 1922: A boy named Francis is born in upstate New York. Based on the average life expectancy for males in the U.S. at the time, Francis—had he given it any thought—could reasonably expect to spend 58.4 vital years. Ninety-five years later, Francis is still going strong.
In 1922, telephones were a novelty and household electricity and running water were available only in urban centers. Under President Warren G. Harding, the White House saw its first radio and electric vacuum cleaner. Henry Ford’s Model T ruled the roadways.
In 1944, a young Francis interrupted his college education to board the RMS Queen Elizabeth, the world’s largest ocean liner, bound for Europe. He spent 18 months in Le Havre, France, as a sergeant in General Patton’s Third Army, long enough to witness the Allies’ victory in Europe. Then he was mustered to the Philippines, where he witnessed the end of World War II. He was one of the lucky ones: If it were not for minor injuries sustained in a car accident, he would have made it through the war without a scratch.
Francis returned home and picked up his education where he left off. (The summer of 2017 marked the 70th anniversary of his college graduation!) He began his career in education as a teacher of upper-grade schoolchildren. He was one of the earliest pioneers of the Head Start education program and eventually became an elementary school principal. And in due course, he married and fathered three sons.
Eventually he retired from teaching and took up a second career as a taxpayer advocate for the Internal Revenue Service, helping confused filers sort out the regulations and paperwork.
Francis retired—again—but refused to fade into the sunset. He began a third “career,” this one dedicated to visiting schools and sharing his stories of military service with curious kids.
It all came down to his guiding philosophy: “As long as I can, I want to help as many people as possible.”
In the late ’90s, Francis found himself under the care of Lyu, a licensed practical nurse specializing in senior care who also holds a master’s degree in holistic nursing. Their lives became more deeply enmeshed as they chose to establish a daughter-father partnership. After outliving his wife and his three sons, Francis created a second family with Lyu.
“People ask us all the time if we’re married. But I say, no, that’s my daughter,” Francis says.
“Families come in all shapes and sizes,” Lyu adds. “We chose to become father and daughter.”
Together they pulled up stakes in New York and relocated to North Georgia, where Francis resumed his school volunteerism and Lyu continued her healthcare career.
But as he neared the end of his ninth decade, Francis faced the biggest crisis of his life. Shortly after his 89th birthday, his memory declined. Seemingly overnight, this once-vital helper-of-people found himself needing help with his memory.
Lyu refused to accept Francis’ memory loss without a battle. She did her research and made the decision to start Francis on a 20mg-per-day regimen of Prevagen, which she had learned of through her holistic health contacts.
Shortly after beginning Prevagen, Francis was back in Lyu’s care. For a while, he was unable to tend to the basics. Lyu took care of his every need.
And then things began to change. Soon he asked for his first crossword puzzle since falling ill. He began playing online intelligence-booster games.
“His recovery was just amazing. It was more than I could have hoped for,” says Lyu from their home in Flowery Branch, Georgia.
Six months after being admitted to hospice Francis was back in the classroom, regaling a new generation of scholars with hour-long presentations of his experiences and adventures in World War II. He now conducts these sessions several times a month, speaking without notes and happily lingering to answer questions from the students.
Lyu was so astonished by the return of Francis’ memory that she began taking Prevagen herself. In a society where too many people rarely get up off the couch, especially as they age, Lyu says she stays on the move, volunteering and helping people wherever she can. At age 72, she boasts of the energy of a 35-year-old. Both she and Francis point to their commitment to service as key to helping them stay young at heart.
But it goes beyond attitude. True to her scholarly roots, Lyu embraces a holistic approach to mind-body health.
Lyu explains, “We eat a well-balanced diet and make sure we pay attention to exercising our bodies and minds. We also are big believers in acupuncture and chiropractic care to help keep our bodies in balance.”
Francis has in-home care several times a week, but you have to wonder if he really needs it. His caregivers are usually surprised when the man who answers the front door turns out to be the patient they expected to see.
“They come in here expecting to see a sick old man,” Francis says with a chuckle. “But I’m usually dressed and ready before they even get here.”
Whatever they’re doing, they say, something is working. While many of their peers find themselves tired and struggling to engage life with enthusiasm, Francis and Lyu are proud examples of the power of a solid diet, intentional healthcare and mindful living.
Francis and Lyu are driven by an ethos of generosity and care: They embody the motto “Live to serve and serve to live.”
Long may they run.