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Updated on February 10, 2011


Many of you may have heard of the death of fitness advocate Jack La Lanne today, January 23, 2011, at the grand old age of 96. This death affected me like few others. We just have to look at the obituary pages to see the deaths of many celebrities and public figures who attain a ripe old age. These people lived normal lives with numerous self-indulgent moments like most of us have and just beat the odds. They succumbed to the inevitable, most quietly stepping from the stage of public scrutiny when their time had passed and moved into oblivion. We only hear about them again at their passing.

But Jack LaLanne was not one of those people. He had a plan and hearing of his feats of athletic ‘daring do’ during the 1990’s when he was already of advanced age made me believe that the routine of senescence and ultimate death could be postponed over a vast period of time if you were dedicated to taking care of your body and watching carefully what you ate. I was thrilled to watch him selling his juicer products with his wife on television. While he wasn’t the flickering black and white image I saw with my mom during the early 1960’s, he was coherent and vital well into his nineties. He was the guy I wanted to imitate; I bought his juicers and followed his advice. Just seeing him there at his advanced age was proof positive that something he was doing was, in fact, working. Yes, him and that jumpsuit, it was his uniform. Because he had a plan, there was no way that he would be exceeded in longevity by women who cleaned houses and were poor much of their lives. Many of these people are well over 110 years old with some approaching 115. But check the list of world’s oldest living people and those who though deceased, lived the longest.

So what is the formula? I read the story about a woman in France that lived to be over 122 years old and she never did a single pushup and probably did not know a great deal about antioxidants. While Jack’s life was an inspiration to all of us, his death reminds us of our fragility and the futility of beating the ‘grim reaper’. I believed that if I dotted all the ‘I’s and crossed all the ‘T’s, I too could live to be well over a hundred and be in relatively good shape. But, it appears that the true source of longevity remains elusive. That is biggest disappointment for me. How do people over 100 live so long? It is not exercise or eating yogurt. It has come to me that it has to be a combination of genetics and the luck of the draw, which still remains outside the current knowledge of medical science to explain. Believe me, if there were some magic elixir we would all covet it.


Writing this has helped me accept his passing more easily. Jack may not have had all the genetic predispositions for longevity that the oldest of the old seem to possess. But if you put the genetics together with Jack LaLanne’s fitness regimen, who knows what could be possible. In spite of a multi billion dollar fitness and life extension industry, there is no absolute correlation between having a fitness regimen and living the longest. Who dies and who continues to live is much more random than I had hoped. Jack LaLanne’s passing is a reminder that we mere mortals are, as always, not really in control of our own lives. Ultimately, we must live day by day and be thankful to God for each successive breath He allows us to draw.



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