The following is something that I posted on my Facebook page in response to numerous birthday wishes:
Thanks to all of you who sent me birthday wishes yesterday and today. At the age of 72, it’s always a major accomplishment and exciting to make it through another day! Of course immediately upon discovering that I had made it to another landmark this morning, I ambled out of bed, found a mirror and cuffed my chin with my craggy, smiling visage peering back at me. No one is asked for advice on longevity until they reach the 90s or so, but that certainly will not stop me from grabbing the lectern for a brief message.
When I was hired by Eastern Airlines as a pilot in 1966, my incredibly loving grandmother could not bear the thought of me being in Miami (the location of the airline’s training academy) for many months with no one to take care of me (I’m rather high maintenance). Prior to my arrival, she arrived In Miami Beach and signed a lease on an apartment close to the area now known as South Beach. I moved in with her, and although the rigors of school were quite stress inducing, I was pampered and overly fed by grandma. In that I love to eat, and in that grandma was adept at making excessive amounts of high caloric food served in meteoric proportions, I ate, and ate and ate. The upshot was that my original 6′ 168 pound frame ballooned up to slovenly, out-of-shape 198 pounds now sporting a 36-inch waist with lots of side meat hanging over my erstwhile nicely fitting surfing pants.
I finally escaped the loving influence of grandma through successful graduation and was assigned to the New York pilot base. I started noticing little Teletype messages encircled in black on the pilot bulletin boards. These messages announced the recent demise of typically a retired pilot (mandatory retirement age of 60 in those days) and often the deceased was in his (no female pilots then) early 60s. It seemed that through perhaps a combination of fast living, transcontinental time zone changing flights, the endless rarified air of the cockpit, and perhaps the extra radiation from spending so much time at attitude, rendered retired pilots actuarial nightmares.
In those days, unlike today where pilots are glorified bus drivers with crews of surly, overweight flight attendants, we flew with beauty queens, had short hours and enjoyed lazing about exotic locations between trips. It always amazed me that someone was willing to pay me a six figure income with excessive benefits to go on vacation accompanied by gorgeous women and “real men” with whom I could readily relate.
Unfortunately, there were pitfalls ready to grab an unwary pilot. We, as pilots, were required to undergo not only two FAA Class A physical exams per year, but also an annual company physical. It didn’t take much of a physical problem to ground a pilot, and any number of medical issues led to an immediate cancellation of one’s pilot medical certificate. In other words, you were certainly grounded and in many instances simply lost your job.
Well, having at least a modicum of intelligence, it didn’t take me long to break the code, and I joined the local YMCA in NY, and commenced a regimen of not only working out regularly, but also paying close attention to my nutrition. The result was that I honed my body down to a muscular, healthy 179 pounds with a 31 waist (later to become 143 pounds with a 27 inch waist when I got back to running). I have continued that life of physical culture ever since. So what’s the point of this little narrative?
At the age of 72 this morning, and as I write this, I am just minutes away from my actual birth time, I not only feel like a million dollars, but I am literally in better condition AND stronger than I was as a young police officer in his early 20s! I love the fact that I am as fast or faster than many of the good, much younger cyclists, and I guarantee you that at my current weight of 154, I can probably out bench press most of them! How can YOU do that?
Get regular, vigorous aerobic exercise, keep your core muscles strong, train with weights (absolutely vital as you age), consume a healthful diet with lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, engage in activities for which you have a passion, learn something new on a regular basis, challenge yourself, etc. More controversial, but something that has worked for me since my 20s, and has allowed me to sometimes go as long as 10 years without so much as a common cold, I take a slew of vitamins and minerals daily and something that has worked unbelievably well for me, a regimen of 5 grams of L-Arginine (mixed with a gram of L-Citrillene) daily.
Doing a bit of introspection, I do however fall miserably short at one characteristic common to those who go on to considerable longevity, and that is having a tranquil mind. I seem to be incapable of that one. When I used to take Yoga classes, at the end there was the time when everyone simply rested on their Yoga mats in quiet contemplation. I hated that time – my eyes were as big as silver dollars and my mind frantically went over the numerous things occupying it and crowding out the tranquility. At least I know what I should be doing in this respect; I just fail at it miserably.
The bottom line is to make exercise and good nutrition a lifestyle. Believe me, you want to feel like I do when you are 72!