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Some Healthy-Aging Role Models

Clarence Bass’s website has a couple of inspirational role models this month for healthy aging. The first is Professor Dan Mandelker, a 95-year-old professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis. He has just retired from teaching, after 72 years, not because he can’t do it well anymore-he still gets top reviews from his students. But he wants to have more time to devote to his writing. He is mentally sharp as ever, and physically also still in good shape. He had to cut back on his exercise, which includes stretching and strength training focusing on functional movements, because he’d been having problems with falls. But that has thankfully been traced to a balance problem with his inner ear (which struck close to home for me) that is under control with medication. So now he is as active as ever. He works with a personal trainer for his strength training, and makes sure he moves around a lot on all days, getting up at least once an hour to walk around his condo.

Professor Dan had a fall at age 92 that caused him to fracture his hip. That is often considered to be almost a death sentence for elderly people, often leading to a downward spiral of activity and never recovering to walking and other activities of daily living. Not so with Dan, who bounced back to full health.

I think his results are a testament to a healthy lifestyle and staying active. In Clarence’s words, Dan “follows a healthy diet that is centered on whole foods. On a typical day, he might have eggs and fruit for breakfast, and then chicken or fish along with some vegetables for lunch and dinner. He avoids red meat and tries not to overeat”.

The second inspirational example is South Australia’s oldest resident, Catherina van der Linden, who at 109 still works out three times a week. She has also come back to full health after a broken hip, which happened in her 90s, while she was trying out her grandson’s skateboard!

She describes herself as someone who “cannot sit at all”, and does a 45-minute fitness class for her thrice-weekly workout consisting of a circuit of “fitness equipment designed to strengthen the upper body, legs, and core for older gym bodies”. She supplements this with seated exercises on her own two other days a week.

Both of these examples underscore the point that what is normally considered an inevitable decline with aging is probably more related to poor lifestyle than aging, and can be held off by staying appropriately active. It’s time for me to get up and move around!

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