How do you want to be and feel when you’re 90?
Slumped over in a chair at a nursing home or super healthy and full of vitality and energy?
Healthy and vital of course!
I’ve been completely inspired by a couple of videos that have been going around about two ladies – one is 90 and the other 100. They’re so healthy that one is a track and field champion at age 100 and the other does tango dancing and even went skydiving at 90.
I, personally, have no interest in skydiving, but I am hugely interested in being super healthy at 90. So I wondered what these ladies do that I could start copying right now.
I discovered that the secret to being super healthy at 90 and 100 is actually really simple:
Be stringent about what you eat.
Exercise for an hour a day.
There is nothing complicated about this.
So why is it easier said than done? Why does it get complicated?
Because we’ve made everything complicated in life. But when you stop, take a deep breath and think about it – not much in life really needs to be complicated.
As I wrote about in my last two posts on health, the processed food and diet industries in the U.S. have created the absolute perfect storm of complication, which has produced a nation of unhealthy, overweight people who are so confused they don’t know which way to turn. Our American diets of processed food, fast food and junk make us overweight and unhealthy. On top of that, every other week there’s a new “study,” telling us how to be healthy and lose weight – and most of the studies contradict each other. How about exercise? Forget it. Every other week there’s a new book by some Hollywood star’s personal trainer, or some new exercise fad. I want to crawl back under the covers. It’s all too much.
But it doesn’t need to be. In fact, health is actually incredibly simple. After I read about these two ladies, I realized that what they do to be so healthy is exactly what my very healthy dad did until he died of a gastrointestinal problem at age 93.
I also saw the stark difference between my own parents. My dad always maintained a simple, healthy regime and my mother did not.
My dad was super healthy, active and vital until the very end. My mother, on the other hand – sweet as she is – is now 91 and completely inactive, uses a walker, can only walk down the hall and back, lives in an assisted living home and has no energy.
I witnessed first hand how this happened.
My dad simplified his health and made it a priority. My mother did not.
My dad went for a three-mile walk just about every day, no matter what, right up until the end. My mother only went for walks when my dad encouraged her to.
My dad did a few floor exercises every day, no matter what. My mother did not.
My dad ate only clean, healthy food and because he had a lifelong habit of this, his taste buds actually preferred healthy food. As an example, when we’d be at a restaurant and the dessert menu came around, he’d order a plate of fruit. My sweet mother, however – loved – and still loves – big gooey cakes and desserts and stuff.
My dad always maintained his weight. My mother did not.
So now my mother is the one who is pretty much slumped in her chair at the assisted living home.
Let’s now look at the two ladies I talked about in the beginning of this post.
Photos of Ida Keeling courtesy of The New York Times
Ida Keeling, the track and field champion, adheres to a stringent regimen of diet (“I eat for nutrition, not for taste”) and exercise (“I’ve got to get my hour in every day”).
She was profiled in a recent New York Times article, which said: “On a recent afternoon, Shelley Keeling (Ida’s daughter) led her mother through a routine that included push-ups, wall sits, shoulder presses and sprints back and forth on the balcony of her apartment in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Ms. Keeling lives alone and says that self-sufficiency is a key to her longevity.”
The NYT article continues: “Ms. Keeling eschews food products with preservatives, favoring fresh grains and produce, along with limited portions of meat. Desserts are rarities, and a tablespoon of cod-liver oil supplements breakfast most mornings. Despite her exceptional discipline, Ms. Keeling allows herself one indulgence. ‘This is putting gas in the car,”she said before downing a tall shot of Hennessy.”
The second lady is 90-year old Phyllis Sues, the tango dancing skydiver. She actually writes her own blog (who blogs at 90?). You can read her blog on Huffington Post, but let me give you a taste. She says: “To look good and feel good is work. To look great and feel great is a full-time job. There is no cheating! It’s daily! Minute-by-minute, second-by-second. This is the process I love and love to work at. The reward is liking myself and living a creative life.
“Life in itself is a challenge and you can either, accept it and take action, or you can sit and do nothing. My advice is there is only one winner: accept the challenge, take action and get on with your life no matter what age.
“I’m not aware of being 90. I’m aware of feeling physically as good as I have ever felt and mentally even better. I practice dance and workout every day. This body has to know who’s boss and being 90 and feeling 20 is as good as it gets! People ask me all the time what’s my secret. I tell them move, learn and listen.
Photos of Phyllis Sues courtesy of The Huffington Post
“The reward is a healthy body and mind. I’m totally selfish in that me and my body and mind are one. We are partners and we work play and live as one. So if that is so, we can’t sit around and think about tomorrow. Our body and mind has to be trained from the first breath, otherwise it’s down hill all the way. Numbers and dwelling on age is a trap. There is no age, it’s living each moment to it’s fullest.
“I started my own fashion label at 50, became a musician and learned Italian and French in my 70s, took tango and trapeze at 80 and walked into my first yoga class at 85. So, if you think you’re old, think again!
“What inspires me is the process of learning. Inspiration creates creativity and creativity creates a better life. I like experimenting and have no fear of trying something new, so flying high on a trapeze at 80 was never a question. Becoming a musician late in my life was not accidental. It was meant to be.
“I love to move and exercise, so my work out regime consists of yoga, tango, jump rope, hiking with my poodle Nicko and playing tennis.
“Yoga gives you a life you didn’t have yesterday. It’s a wakeup call to every cell in your body. Every muscle sits up and pays attention. I live to do yoga and I do it to live. Do every pose as good as you can and then do it a little better. I have arthritis in my spine, but I can do a full back bend, headstand and splits.
“If you don’t train the body every day it withers. If you don’t train the mind everyday, you lose it. That’s why I learned Italian and French, as learning a language is a great mental exercise.
I admit, I’m driven but I’m driven by desire and that’s the formula. Desire is so powerful, like you are propelled as if from a canon. Desire to me is the driving force, but action is the result.
Working and accomplishing something mental and physical makes my day worth living and suddenly there is a break through, another step on the ladder. I don’t give up. The sun and moon are there for everyone. The journey is worth it! This trip has been good to me and I wouldn’t trade it for all the stars in the universe.
There is a way to beat the clock. Stay fit and enjoy the journey. Accept the challenge and go for it! That’s what I did!”
I’m hoping these stories inspire you as much as they inspired me. In future posts I’ll show you some simple ways to get started.
You have given two wonderful examples of longevity with accompanying vigor and joie de vivre. I like the emphasis by Phyllis on both physical and mental effort as key components in aging well. The post inspires me to keep eating nutritious foods, keep doing my daily walks and strength building, and to keep a regime of mental fitness by pushing myself for brain outputs like writing.
Walking and calisthenics costs nothing.