Extraordinary French pianist Colette Maze began recording for the first time in her nineties. In the fall of 2021, she released her sixth album. At the age of 107, Maze says that “tickling the ivories every day” is what keeps her young. And she adds that practicing the piano at her age is “no more complicated than eating a salad.”
Known as the “Father of Fitness,” the late Jack LaLanne pulled himself out of an adolescence riddled with sugar, stomach issues, headaches, and mood swings. One day, his mother dragged him to a lecture on nutrition that changed his life. After that, Jack went on to fuel his body with whole foods and made exercise a way of life. His diseases disappeared, including his need for glasses.
Well into his eighties, LaLanne devoted two hours daily to exercise. He lifted weights for an hour and spent another hour swimming. (If you’re not familiar with this icon, you should look up some of his athletic feats, which have been referred to as nothing short of magical in the days when extreme sports were unknown.… such as towing 100 row boats attached to a rope in his mouth while swimming in San Francisco Bay!)
These legends help make the case that physical and cognitive declines like memory loss are not an inevitable outcome of aging. I have come across many accounts in my research of Yogis and martial arts masters who have lived so long that their age was forgotten even to themselves.
Even today, many masters have the physical body of a fifty-year-old well into their hundreds. These individuals are unknown to the Western world for two reasons: First, they avoid contact with modern culture to avoid the negative energy drain. Second, Western academics and scientists simply refuse to believe in this possibility.
I, however, am greatly inspired by optimal living practices that can lead to an uncommonly long and healthy life. The post-modern model of the aged individual deteriorating away in a nursing home is a sad and unnecessary path. The “normal aging” process, when optimized around the six pillars and combined with skillful mental training, is a pleasant and empowering experience. With these tools and some discipline, mental and physical attributes will improve as you age, although you will likely develop different skills in your older days than in your younger years.
If you’re an athlete, martial artist, painter, chess aficionado, pianist, gardener, crossword puzzle fiend, etc., aging doesn’t affect your ability to do the things you’ve always done… as long as you keep working on improving them.
For those of you who are excellent debaters, your ability to argue and reason doesn’t vanish when you hit seventy, eighty, ninety, or beyond. Common sense doesn’t diminish with age, and your physical health doesn’t have to, either. If you were absent the day God handed out IQ, aging won’t make it magically appear, but you can improve it with mental training. Life experiences combined with your mental training will allow for a rich inner world to open and become more alive than your everyday experiences. More insight, wisdom, and mental power accrue through the years as you live an examined life.
The negative social training system says that as people hit fifty or sixty, they will start slowing down, and the decline only picks up steam from there. And when mental decline occurs with no diagnosis of a brain degenerative disorder, it’s chalked up to “the normal aging process” — which I believe is not normal at all. All things being healthy, the brain is equipped for longevity if the body and mind are kept strong.
In the next post I will investigate how adhering to an integrated training plan literally makes the brain a younger, bigger, faster, stronger, calmer taskmaster as you age biologically. The older your body becomes, the younger your mind can become. And the earlier you start, the better the long-term results.