Wellness And Aging Well: Conversation With Donald Ardell – Part Two

Ageless Don Ardell in the Madeira Beach Triathlon

In our last post Don Ardell contributed to our conversation on Aging and doing it really Well! Don begins by referring to the study he introduced in our last post. Here’s the conclusion of his thoughts and my reply.


What are the key variables here? (in aging well and longevity) Is the ability to live unstressful lives the most important factor? Does living independently lend certain resilience to elderly bachelors and bachelorettes? What about the fact that centenarians carry a number of genes common among those who live to 100 or better? The researchers are not sure, just yet, what to make of it all, but they seek to identify the longevity genes, learn how they work and, as you might expect, create drugs that mimic their actions.

Fortunately, the head investigator wants to focus on healthy life patterns, as well. Most of the study subjects have not been smokers, heavy drinkers or obese. Yet, he also noted that even if you’re Jack La Lanne, you’ve got the perfect diet, you’re exercising for a really long time, you’re happy-go-lucky and incredibly nice and you’re thin, I would say that without the appropriate genetic variations, it’s still extremely difficult to get to 100. Well, sure, we knew that. It’s difficult to get to 90 or 80, as well.

Will You Live To Be 100?

These reports on living to 100 reminded me that I once had a bright idea for making a killing connecting wellness with reaching 100. Unfortunately, ethical considerations shelved my grand plan. No – I’m kidding – the plan was pure and noble, somewhat like life insurance. I even wrote an essay describing the plan – general terms.

It may be time, nearly a decade later, to take another run at testing the feasibility (and legality) of my initial scheme, published on December 29, 2001. If I wait a few more decades, it could be too late – I’ll already be 100 and thus too old to sign up.

In any event, it looks like the time has come to go for it, time to bring back my bright idea.

Here it is – let me know what you think. Perhaps this concept has even more appeal during the ongoing economic crisis. If the feedback from you is encouraging, I might announce a REAL wellness longevity program at NWC (National Wellness Conference) (www.nationalwellness.org) for those who want to associate with other centenarian-status seeking wellites. We can start our own club, and meet here at your website and annually at NWC. It will consist of a secret longevity reading program, special exercise regimens, an eternal diet pattern and much more. So far, none of this is all that special but I have not mentioned the best part yet. Here is the best part — why the “Don Ardell Live To Be 100” program will, if I go through with it, prove utterly amazing, incredibly attractive and a sure thing to sweep the nation into a frenzy for living long and well:

1. It will be guaranteed!

2. It will cost only $100 for life — which will be refunded if you don’t’ make it (provided you ask for your money back – personally)!

3. You will get a club T-shirt AND a lifetime subscription to the ARDELL WELLNESS REPORT. (I know – it’s free anyway, but never mind that.)

Other details will have to wait for a grand announcement.

Well, that’s all I have to say for now.


OK Don! Sign me up! 100 is such a nice round number, why not go for it? Thanks for your contribution to our conversation here. Your refreshingly blunt humor and relevance are always appreciated.

Early on in the wellness movement the nay-sayers were scoffing by saying that since we couldn’t guarantee greater longevity, there was not point in all of this effort to be healthy and well. We humans have always had trouble with this mortality thing (see Greek Mythology!). Now, with research like the work Buettner has looked at in The Blue Zones, that you mentioned, we may be finally silencing some of those old critics.

Remember the “Sixty Minutes” TV show that reported on the early version of the Blue Zones back in the 1980’s. That was the yogurt-eating Cossack stuff we all got quite enamored with. Well, I guess the data was flawed in that work, but Buettner’s summary of the current work being done by anthropologists, epidemiologists, and aging specialists around the world is quite solid. Genetics is overrated! Lifestyle again, rules supreme.

I think the promise of wellness that is there for we folks creeping into geezerhood is, and always has been, about the QUALITY of life. Sure, I’ll take a nice able-bodied lengthy stay here on the planet if I can get it. It is, however, somewhat determined by something the Chinese call “Joss” (something that combines luck, fortune, fate and karma). We can influence the probabilities. That’s it. Hey, but why play “Russian Roulette” with a revolver and put three or four bullets into the six chambers instead of just one? Reducing our risk factors makes sense, there’s a library of research behind that. However, Joss comes in to account for all of those unpredictable factors that make life, death and disability, very real.

We might call it EXISTENTIAL WELLNESS. Living life to the fullest, running (and winning!) Sprint Triathlons at 70 plus like you Don, or beginning to run again at age 60 (after a fifteen year hiatus) like I did last year, are just a couple of ways to maximize our precious existence. Existential wellness is all about our philosophy, our mindset, our view of ourselves and the world. It’s about embracing the adventure in life, and it’s about taking some glucosamine for those aging knees.

The current crop of “Boomer” will not go quietly into the night. They (we) are fueling the “Wellness Revolution” that Paul Pilzer talks about (http://thewellnessrevolution.paulzanepilzer.com/index.php). We are doing walking tours for vacations (link to walking the world), and looking for ways to stay well. As you and Jack Travis have always railed against the “Pill Fairy” mentality – that some medicine would magically keep us well – I’d add that our answers to healthy aging lie in our active bodies, our open minds, and our compassionate hearts. Let’s keep on being well!

Please add your comments to this conversation. Our next posts will reflect our Well Traveler theme as this blogger goes to Italy for a long-overdue vacation in search of La Dolce Vita and what we can bring back to our wellness lifestyles at home.

Wellness And Aging Well: Conversation With Donald Ardell

Don Ardell - Exuberance is part of REAL Wellness!

Don Ardell is truly one of the founders of the wellness movement that we can identify as getting in gear in the late 1970’s. His foundational book “High-Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease” was ground-breaking and he has since contributed more wisdom through authoring numerous books, being a true ambassador for wellness worldwide, and importantly reminding us that “Wellness is too important to be presented grimly!” One of his latest books looks at the very topic we’ve been exploring on this blog – Aging and doing it Well! Aging Beyond Belief: 69 Tips for REAL Wellness http://www.wholeperson.com/x-selfhelp/aging.html
In it, Don shows us how to “Age under the influence – of a wellness lifestyle.”

Don sent the message below to me just before he took off for the ITU Sprint Triathlon World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. There Don took his Fourth World Champion Medal in his 70-74 age group! http://pressbox.teamusa.org/Pages/TRIATHLON–U-S–Triathletes-Capture-Seven-Titles–21-Medals-at-Worlds.aspx
So! The man knows a thing or two about aging well!
Here’s his thoughts, spread over a couple of posts, and later, my reply.


You asked me to keep the chatter going on this aging thread, so I’ll offer a commentary on a recent book about places (besides Stevens Point, WI) where high percentages of people enjoy remarkably long, high quality lives. Someone named Dan Buettner, an explorer with National Geographic who has traveled widely studying longevity, wrote about what he calls “Blue Zones.” In his new book, “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” (http://www.bluezones.com) , he addresses some of the themes mentioned by you and Sandy. Since I expect you both to be the first centenarians to be speakers at the NWC, you might find his comments on such folks of interest.

Mr. Buettner is not the first and won’t be the last to visit, observe, analyze and report on health habits of centenarians in remote, little understood places off the beaten paths we associate with civilization. In a recent interview on ABC News with the always annoying Diane Sawyer, Buettner condensed his newest aging discoveries into a short but interesting interview segment. Here is the bottom line, based on the qualities he reported to Ms. Sawyer: Centenarians (at least those in Icaria, a lovely Greek Island) have positive attitudes, a sensible diet and look after themselves. Surprise! In Icaria, they also have a special fondness for a local honey and a certain tea. They love walking and they eat a lot of nuts – and veggies, too. They soak in hot springs and hang out mostly with other thin, fit and upbeat people. like themselves.

Nothing was said about religiosity, yogurt or alcohol (though there might be something about such things in the book). The author claims genetics account for only 20 percent of longevity, at least in Icaria. (University of Georgia gerontologist Leonard Poon, in an essay on centenarians, claims 30 percent is due to heredity – see How to Live Beyond 100, World Future Society, November-December 2008 Vol. 42, No. 6.) Whether 20 or 30 percent, the largest factor by far, all agree, is lifestyle.

Let’s personalize this aging business – particularly the centenarian issue. What age might YOU attain before the final curtain call? On a scale of 1 to 10 (ten being quite confident of reaching the fabled mark), where would you put your prospects of living to 100 years or more?

Your chances are probably better than you think.

There are about 50,000 American centenarians around now. Any idea how many there were a century ago? Nearly none! What about the NEXT century at this time? What numbers can we expect by that time, assuming no epochal catastrophes? Who knows? Who could venture a credible guess? However – this may surprise you: Some experts predict there will be 800,000 to one million American centenarians by 2050! That’s a mere 40 years from now. (I can relate – I’ll be 112.)

Credit for longevity advances is attributed to better sanitation, control of air and water borne diseases and other environmental measures, including an improved food supply and greater safety. There are still product recalls, but it’s not The Jungle that Upton Sinclair would write about. Three other factors also come into play — lifestyle habits, economic safety nets and medical advances. The former affects the quality of added years, the latter, the number of them.

Unfortunately, medical advances can keep you alive at the margins too long. Only a few have occasion to make the ultimate decision as to when enough is enough. Your chances of being able to say when are somewhat better (but still difficult) if you live in a right-to-die jurisdiction, like Oregon or the Netherlands. Do you really want to make it to 100 if it entails an extended period of years immobilized with the personality of a Fox News commentator?

Before yearning too much about longevity, you might want to do more to make the most of the time straight ahead. Recall the line by Susan Ertz in Anger in the Sky (1943): “Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”

A study that includes around 1500 centenarians has been underway for ten years in the US.. The research consists of interviews looking for insights that can help others live long and well. The subjects provide DNA samples, take psychological tests and encourage relatives to talk with researchers about their lives. The centenarians agree to donate their brains for medical research. (A request that hopefully won’t remind the old folks of the organ donor skit in the Monty Python movie The Meaning of Life.)

Among the preliminary findings from this study are that centenarians enjoy good health, are gregarious, optimistic, happy and skilled at managing stress. What’s more, they seem to get along well with people, have clear thought patterns and an excellent sense of humor. For example, one lady was asked for the identity of nephews or nieces (for interview purposes) who have consistently taken an interest in her affairs? The woman replied, “Well, they’re all interested in my affairs.”

The study leaders note that most subjects are healthier than they originally expected. Most avoided the devastating diseases of old age until their last months or so (compression of senescence). While the researchers are not sure what to make of it, another finding is that five times as many women make it to 100 as men, and the women, unlike the men, prefer the single life.

Don will expound further and I’ll muster a reply in our next post. Stay tuned, and join in on the conversation with your comments!

Age Fabulously! Hey, Why Not?

September is Health Aging Month! Ace it!

Our Aging Well conversation is growing each day. Yesterday my new wellness column in The Coloradoan, Fort Collins major newspaper, hit the streets! (http://www.coloradoan.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=20109060312) “Make Wellness an Integral Part of Your Lifestyle”.
I co-write the column with Jeb Gorham who is the wellness director at Miramont Lifestyle Fitness. (www.miramontlifestyle.com). In introducing ourselves to the Fort Collins community Jeb shared “Provided the fact that Michael has been involved in the wellness field since around the time I was born, we feel our cross-generational team presents an exceptional and unified vision of health and wellness.”

Accompanying our column was a great article by fellow Fort Collins author, Dan McGrath, entitled “Age Fabulously”. (http://www.coloradoan.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=20109060311)
His new book is 50 Athletes Over 50 Teach Us to Live a Strong Healthy Life. ( http://athletes.50interviews.com/). Check it out!

Coming in our next post will be the always provocative thoughts of wellness legend Don Ardell as he and I continue the wellness conversation on Aging Well!  Join us!  Leave a comment.

"Wellness is far too important to be presented grimly!" Don Ardell

Aging and Sage-ing Well: A Conversation with Sandy Queen

Wellness is about being able to get "a bit farther" down the road.

In late July after The National Wellness Conference, I posed the question in this blog “What is the promise of wellness?”. (https://realbalancewellness.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/the-promise-of-wellness/) I put the question out personally to some of the longtime leaders in the wellness field and it began a conversation with “The Queen of Wellness” herself, Sandy Queen. (http://www.workandwellness.com/speakers/sandyqueen.htm)

Sandy was already there at the first wellness conference I attended in 1979 already leading the way. Her thoughts about my question prompted both of us to reflect on both The Promise of Wellness and the Aging and “Sage-ing” process. Let me share some of our dialogue with you.

(Sandy) Michael….
Great to see you in Wisconsin.
Have been giving a lot of thought to your question. The issue of aging well and what wellness has to say for those of us entering our “Sage-ing” years has been on my mind a lot this year. I did a conference session on this topic this year, and it wasn’t one of my best, probably because it is tossing around in my mind so much as I look for how to address my own “eldering” process.

Perhaps it is just me and my own dealings with my growing older (how DID THIS HAPPEN???) but at any rate, I think we need to visit the area of the real “promises” of wellness…or as Maxine says “Eat well, stay fit and die anyway”.

I realize that we can talk about quantity and quality of life, and this IS important…there is no reason to live long and be miserable. Since I am in the middle of training for a 5K that is definitely NOT going to yield a personal best for me this week (!), the realities of the results of living a “wellness lifestyle” and how that relates to the reality of the aging process is something that is really rumbling around in my head. I think of it particularly when I am out there running a minute slower than my slowest pace ten years ago (I know, I know…it is to be expected, and intellectually I KNEW that but now that it’s hitting…..).

The issue of BALANCE has never been more clear to me than now. As much as I would love to say it doesn’t matter, the gradual (and sometimes not so gradual) deterioration of the physical wellbeing points ever so much to the necessity that we strive to better deliver the message of balance and understanding of being able to shift gears and learning ACCEPTANCE of what IS. I have worked with the senior population for years and the topic of balance has been important, but it’s kind of like teaching parenting workshops before you have a child!

Don’t think that I am being overly morose on the topic…I’m not, but the realization of needing to re-learn a lot that I have taken for granted is making me stop and think about what I have inadvertently presented about wellness over the years….
In the meantime…I’m going out for a run!

(Michael) Hey Sandy!

Yes, always great to see you every year as well. There is honestly something so real and so vibrant about your smile, your presence. I’m not just apple-polishing here. As you know, I’m not one for B.S., I mean it.

I certainly know of which you speak here about wellness and our own journeys. I got out on a simple over-nighter backpack trip (solo) for the first time since my mitral-valve repair heart surgery about five and half years ago. I’m doing really well, no more mitral valve issues, yet I’m on a beta-blocker that acts as a governor on my heart rate. As a result I can still climb the hills and mountains, but I’ve got to do it in s..l..o..w m..o..t..i..o..n. I picked a short little 2-3 mile trek in that was only a very slight uphill and just had to be so patient with myself, not compare here and now with back there and then! As you said, ACCEPTANCE of what is. Our perspective is certainly different now. I look around our longtime wellness friends and I see a lot of us who are right in that “transition zone”…not a full-fledged “geezer” yet, and not “middle-aged” anymore.

Last summer I got to do a canoeing/fishing trip with my 35 year-old son in Wisconsin after the Wellness Conference. I teased him about being “Middle-aged” and said that this was the first canoe trip we’d done where instead of a middle-aged guy and a young man, it was a middle-aged man and a geezer out there paddling! The beautiful thing was that we were out there paddling together, having fun, meeting the challenges the weather and the Northcountry always brings and sharing the great loving father-son relationship we have. I even got to see him transform before my eyes, once again, into a wide-eyed boy as I netted a huge Muskie that he caught.

So! I guess the Promise of Wellness for me is not an end result, it’s certainly no guarantee for anything! Like the cartoon character you quoted said: “Eat well, stay fit and die anyway”. For me personally the promise wellness holds is the greater quality of life that living well brings. It means modifying the scope of the adventures I go on somewhat, but it means still having adventure in my life!

When my first Grandchild was born I wrote something that I hope he will read someday, my wishes for him. I found myself wishing him, among other things, a life of adventure. When I know I am loved, when I have that solid base to venture out from, I love to go just a bit further down that trail or river. It is being able to do that “just a bit further” that is, for me, the Promise of Wellness.

Be exactly the age (and the Sage) you are, and love it Sandy!


(Sandy) Thanks…great to hear from you and your Adventures Through Geezerhood!!! I won in my age category last Saturday in a 5K, so I guess I’m hanging together okay!!! I’m just hearing from so many of my “well” friends who are my age discussing the confrontation and adaptation and acceptance of this time of life that nothing has prepared them for (kind of like parenthood!!!) and since we Baby Boomers are really also pioneers in the first era of extended life and health, these issues have been bouncing around my consciousness this year.

I look at photos of my grandmother who looked OLD at 40, and realize that my grandkids will have a totally different notion of who I am/was when someone asks them years from now.

I think wellness offers everyone the chance to make the decisions throughout the younger times of their lives so that they can potentially face these years with more energy and vitality. A friend of mine who passed last year from a long bout of cancer had a saying at the end of her very King James scriptural service…I am paraphrasing here, but basically the quote (which I am going to have at MY service some day) was that “I didn’t come into this life to leave with a perfect body or a perfect face…but at the end, I want to slide in sideways yelling “Holy Shit, what a ride!”


We’ll continue this topic of Aging and Saging in a wellness way and invite some other “Elders” of the Wellness World to join in.  And your comments are very much encouraged!  What vision do you hold for aging well?  Are you making that transition from the adult to the sage?

A good listing of Aging and Saging articles on the web can be found at http://ozpk.tripod.com/saging

There's more to it than just gaining six months on a Health Risk Assessment