New York Times columnist and author Jane Brody is called the “High Priestess of Health” for her decades of reporting on health and wellness. Here are some insights from Brody, who’s a fit 77 herself.
“There are three critical elements in living well. You have to have a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, low in fat. You have to exercise, no matter how old you are or what your condition is. Even for the bedridden there are exercises to do. Whether you’re in a wheelchair or use a cane, there are no excuses. People forget that even if you’re skinny your bones can fall apart.
“And third, social interaction. It’s important to maintain contact with people of all ages. Myself, I love to play with little kids. That’s one of my issues with the assisted living movement, although it’s necessary for some people; it can deprive you of being around those of other age groups. I have a lot of young friends I’ve met at the Y; we swim together and impart things to each other, and it’s a very rewarding two-way street.
“People would love me to be able to say there’s a magic bullet to keep us from getting dementia. There isn’t. You just have to do the same things throughout your life that you do to prevent heart disease. Crossword puzzles are fun, but they won’t keep you from getting dementia. They’re good to do with friends or if they send you to the computer to look up things you don’t know. And if you learn new things, it makes you more fulfilled.
“But we all have moments where we can’t immediately remember something. That’s delayed retrieval, not dementia. When I forget something I know I know, my son says, ‘Don’t worry, you have so much packed into your head, something is bound to fall out.’
“A very heavyset woman came into the Y the other day and she was talking about her weight and how she wants to be able to eat what she wants. Well, you can eat what you want, just not so much of it. I have ice cream almost every night: a half-cup, 150 calories. I enjoy it. For some people, it’s a glass of wine or a cocktail. I don’t believe in deprivation or diets because diets are something you go on and off of. You have to adopt a lifestyle.
“Very few people can live with revolutionary change in their lives; it has to be evolutionary. There are ways to keep your weight at the same level through your life. If you go out to restaurants, share an entrée with someone or take half of it home. My daughter has replaced the plates in her home with smaller ones. My son takes a drink of water after every bite of food, to give his body time to adjust. Even my grandsons know to stop eating when they’re full.
“The bottom line is not to have reaching 100 as your goal, but to have the best possible life you can live as long as you can live it. Get out there and do something and keep yourself informed and integrated into society. And pay attention to the advice we’ve been giving for decades. It’s not rocket science.”