As most of us have witnessed with our own eyes, our annual Senior Survey reveals with statistical data, seniors, more than at any time in history, are living longer, healthier, more productive lives.
They are shaping some of our most important legislation (Senator Saxby Chambliss), making us laugh (Lorraine Seymourian), getting us in the movie theaters (Harrison Ford), helping us find our groove (Tina Turner) and keeping us fit (Jack LaLanne).
We could have picked any number of folks from the 60-plus-set – there are beaucoup of them out there – to serve as our Super Seniors.
But we like the list we wound up with – an eclectic mix of the famous, stately, and, in the case of Seymourian, someone who, at 75, is just now reaching her peak.
So, turn the pages and read on about these folks who have seemingly found the fountain of youth. All of them are inspiring in their own way.
People of a certain generation – those growing up in the ’50s and ’60s – remember a familiar figure greeting them from their early morning television sets. Wearing a jumpsuit, sporting a physique carved like a Greek statue, he jumped, lunged and flexed muscles that most people didn’t know existed, all the while barking commands at the audience to get off the couch and join him in this foreign activity called exercise.
Jack LaLanne was way, way ahead of his time on the exercise front. Known as the Godfather of Fitness, LaLanne was building up his body at a time when most people only ran when they were being chased. If you’ve ever worked out at a gym, you’ve probably used a machine that is based on a design created and developed by LaLanne. He designed the first leg extension machines and pulley machines using cables, which are now standard in the fitness industry. He was also an early proponent for women and fitness and encouraged the fairer sex to get into the gym at a time when most thought it would make them bulky and masculine.
Now 93, LaLanne continues to work out up to two hours each day, doing a series of lifts and lunges that leave people half his age (or even a third) huffing and puffing and crying for mercy. In fact, he seems mercurial for any age with his various projects in the pipeline.
LaLanne appears in a national ad campaign for Target; hawks his popular Juicer on late-night infomercials and makes numerous public appearances. (In May, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver announced that LaLanne will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame later this year.)
He also has a weekly radio show on the VoiceAmerica Health & Wellness Radio Network and earlier this year wrote a book, “Fiscal Fitness: 8 Steps to Wealth and Health from America’s Leaders of Fitness and Finance.” The book was coauthored with Matthew J. Rettick of Nashville’s Covenant Reliance Producers.
So what keeps LaLanne motivated?
“I like helping people have a wonderful, healthy life,” he says. “I’ve been in this profession for over 75 years and I’ve learned there’s so much junk and lies in my profession – `people should do this, people should eat that; do two minutes of this, do two minutes of that;’ it’s a bunch of garbage.
“We have (roughly) 640 muscles in our bodies and they all need their share of work. Exercise is king, nutrition is queen; put them together and you have a kingdom.”
According to LaLanne, there is no secret or short-cut behind staying fit. “You have to work at it. Dying is easy. Living is an athletic event. You need to have goals and challenges. You need to eat right. Exercise. That’s what it’s all about it. God helps them who help themselves. God gives you the power, but you have to `do’ it. A lot of people say, `I’m fat because my mother was fat, or my father was fat.’ They’re fat because they exceed the feed limit. You didn’t inherit anything. You just inherited their appetite.”
LaLanne sees excess when he looks at Americans today. “Say you’re a multimillionaire, but you’ve got a big belly, health problems, your sex life is gone, you have aches and pains – what good is your money?” While exercise is his specialty, in writing “Fiscal Fitness,” he’s witnessed the similarities to being healthy financially and physically. “In both cases, you need to have a plan. So many people are financially bankrupt. It makes you sick. They spend money on this and that, with no plan of what they’re doing. They get to 30 or 40 years old, in debt up to their ears. They need a plan and part of that plan is going to an expert to get out of a financial rut.”
LaLanne was in a physical rut as a teenager. He feasted on junk food, was frail and often missed school due to various illnesses. A lecture at a local YMCA turned that around. It inspired him to eat better, work out and to inspire others to do the same. As much as he exercises, he admits that eating right, by cutting out sugar and other bad foods, has kept him healthy into his 90s. He says he drinks up to seven glasses of water a day as well as vegetable juice. He also has up to six pieces of fresh fruit and 10 raw vegetables daily.
“You know how many fat people there are? Over 60 percent of Americans are overweight. I just bought a new Corvette – would I put water in the gas tank? No! It’s the wrong fuel. It wouldn’t run. What about the human machine? If you put the wrong fuel in the human machine it wouldn’t run either. You’ll run it right into the grave.”
The novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “there are no second acts in American lives.” Try telling that to Lorraine Seymourian.
The 73-year-old, who is often recognized by her assortment of fun and exotic hats, is finding more doors opening now than at any stage in her long career. Last year alone she penned her first book, “Sexy Food for Seniors;” wrote articles for “Upscale Living” magazine; and hosted “Sexy Seniors with Lorraine” on the National Radio Network. Now she is embarking on her most ambitious project to date – a social networking organization for seniors called The International Sexy Senior Society.
“It’s going to be called TISSS,” says Seymourian, in her theatrical way of speaking. “I took it off of, or `stole’ it a little bit from Gershwin’s song “‘S Wonderful, ‘S Marvelous,” so I thought ’tis marvelous for us too because I want to prove that seniors are vital, terrific and marvelous. We are fashionable and fun, just like anybody else.”
A few minutes of talking with the New England-based Seymourian is akin to taking a few sips from the fountain of youth. She has an energy and a joy for life that defies her age, which is a just a number as far as Seymourian is concerned. She often says: “I may not look like I’m 35 years old, but I feel like it.”
As for TISSS, Seymourian has big plans for the organization. “I want the members to feel a sense of ownership.” The organization will bring seniors together for a range of events including “dinner parties, galas, charity events, sporting events, talents shows, anything they want to do. It’s their club and I want them to enjoy it and have fun and meet other people and network with other people for social or business opportunities. And who knows, we might even have a marriage on our hands.”
The group has been meeting monthly at a Border’s in Massachusetts, and will expand nationally this summer.
On a personal level, Seymourian keeps active. “I love to swim about two hours; I never want to stop.” She also plays tennis and dances. “Also, I never take a pill. I don’t get sick and I rarely, rarely get a cold. I haven’t had one for years.”
When asked what advice she gives to seniors, Seymourian says the key is laughter. “Believe it or not, I think the first step to being healthy is to giggle. I find that people who laugh and giggle and have fun and have a positive attitude, they are the ones who are healthy and they are the ones that tell other people how wonderful life is and exciting it is and don’t complain all the time. The minute you start complaining, you are within yourself; you’re introverted; you’re tight inside.
“I say loosen up and don’t be afraid to speak out and do things in your life. That’s the whole point. Think of other people as well. Don’t just think about yourself. Go out and help other people and make other people giggle.”
Seymourian finds these moments in all places. “On the subway, when I go in to a Red Sox game, I make everybody giggle with me. All ages talk to me. We all have a wonderful time riding in instead of just standing there or just sitting there waiting for the train to go to each stop, if you know what I mean. That’s the life I want, where everybody wants to get involved.”
She writes about that in her book. Her advice for dinner parties is that no one person is the host, doing all the work. “When I give a party, I never `give’ a party. I never say `hello, it’s nice of you to come. Oh take off your coat, meet other people, have a drink.’ Huh-uh. I say `you, go put on your apron, go in the kitchen and start working.’ They love it because they are involved in making the dish they brought.”