Nutrition, no meat of any kind in my diet for 40 years. Exercise regularly, challenging myself with cross-training. Therapy, the world, and self-identity are critical to mental balance. Self-reflection, keeping a lifelong habit of journals is a helpful historical structure of my life. Medicine and its procedures are life-giving in spite of ideals of self-managed health care. I keep cognizant of my body and its signals and I share them with my doctors.

The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jan Gero.

Jan Gero, 90, is The Compulsive New Yorker, a professional journaler and prolific monologist, who has been sharing his journey of self-discovery with the public for two decades. He was born in Copenhagen in 1933 to a Protestant father and a Jewish mother. His mother, after divorcing his father, emigrated to the US two months before the German invasion of Denmark, settling in New York, with Jan joining her in NYC following the end of the war.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

In Denmark, both my parents were in the arts so my first school in NYC was Highschool of Music & Art. I later studied architecture at MIT and at UC Berkeley before returning to Denmark to study at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Copenhagen. Since then, while continuing my career in architecture, I was a modern dancer, a fashion designer/manufacturer, a documentary filmmaker, and for the last 25 years an autobiographical journal-based artist. I have lived in New York for the last 70 years.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

My earlier European, and now my Jewish American life, deeply influenced me to be a solitary self-reliant personality. I was uncomfortable in the group politics of architectural offices and preferred working alone. But I still had to make a living, so I explored opportunities to take advantage of my architectural training that would allow me to work mostly alone. Understanding that, and learning what worked best for me, and what lead to me doing my best work, was an invaluable lesson to learn. It lead to my 50-year career in Architectural Presentation, working in my one-person office serving Architects with scale models and illustrations. That lesson helped me find my place in America.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There has not been one particular person who helped me achieve success. Certainly, I have had help along the way but there is only so much others can do to make you happy. What has helped me evolve to some form of contentedness, which to me is true success, has been psychoanalytic therapy, which has been part of my life for 20 years. I’ve had over 1,000 sessions of such therapy during my 70 adult years and it led me directly to my final work — making art out of that life story.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I am less a successful leader than an individual seeking to personally survive successfully. But I would not mind, someday, being considered a ‘thought leader’ in journaling and self-actualization. I think the seven therapies I have managed to engage myself in have been most instrumental, especially the 50 sessions of Structural Integration, they have been most rewarding. Introspection, casting a critical eye at oneself; persistence, particularly in my journey of self-discovery, and being honest with myself even when that honesty revealed unflattering things about me and my life.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

With persistence, often compulsive, I have learned the disciplines of succeeding through exercise, nutrition and my journaling art to become myself. Following my father’s premature death I concluded that being vegan was one path. Exercise in all forms, from sports like running and race-walking, to calisthenics, to yoga, to my personal 90-minute weekly exercise routine in Central Park. Accepting my journaling as an art form is contributing to my mental health.

Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys? We’d love to hear the story.

I hesitate to express the belief that the use of marijuana for 50 years has been a source of inspiration for my work and even my appreciation of myself but I can’t ignore its value to me. It unlocks doors to my mind that reveal options I never thought possible. Studying obituaries, most often with Wikipedia, especially age and cause of death, definitely affirms my belief that not eating our ancestral animal brothers and sisters is a path to evolution, to salvation from our competitive nature.

Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? (Please share a story or an example for each)

Nutrition, no meat of any kind in my diet for 40 years. Exercise regularly, challenging myself with cross-training. Therapy, the world, and self-identity are critical to mental balance. Self-reflection, keeping a lifelong habit of journals is a helpful historical structure of my life. Medicine and its procedures are life-giving in spite of ideals of self-managed health care. I keep cognizant of my body and its signals and I share them with my doctors.

Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?

Journaling for self-understanding. and physical health. Fresh air to revive lungs from urban life. Maintain physical balance and mobility through intelligently designed exercise.

Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?

Nature, my genetic nature is definitely a force to factor into my understanding of my life; however, I find it hard to pinpoint or even generally know that nature from a physical point of view. By contrast, from a psychical point of view, it is easier to recognize traits in myself as resembling my parents, and that genetics is very powerful, for better and for worse. I would have to say that nature is in fact nurture. It is in the parents, it is in the culture. It is in me all the way from birth to death.

Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?

For mental health, my twenty years in psychotherapy have been critical in dealing with a different culture as in assimilation. I would say that ‘fatigue’ issues in my old age are ultra-important issues to be recognized, not fought, but observed and shared with a trusting doctor. Medications for various physiological issues have heavy side effects so I avoid them when possible. Patience and reporting to a doctor is needed and not hiding it from yourself or others.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“The Body is the Soul.” This is the mantra of my most recent and most trusted therapist, Dr. Ida Rolf, whose treatment method, called Structural Integration, improves daily my mobility, my breathing and my spinal erectness.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Committing to making journaling a habit for self-knowledge, for revealing your gifts and faults, helping you to look more inward than outward for guidance of how to lead your life.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

My websites, and are the two best places to start. My journaling course, in development at this moment, will be launched shortly and shared on both sites. And readers can watch any of my 350 films, 30 -minute-shorts, called ‘The Compulsive NewYorker’ on MNN5 Art-Channel broadcast Saturday nights at 11 pm for ten years.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.