Posts Tagged aging

Tamae Watanabe Is Oldest Woman To Climb Mt. Everest As 3 Die

summit photo of Tamae (left?)—5/19/2012

While watching the Celtics lose to the Heat, the commentators said that the three leading Boston players were so old (four top players are 36, 36, 34, 27) that they ran out of gas in the fourth quarter of the seventh game. Same comment about old man Federer (31) not able to keep up with the young bucks Djokovic and Nadal (25 and 26). That is partly what makes this story so impressive…that a woman in her 70’s is able to keep up with climbers half her age and less, while defying death on the mountain.

KATMANDU, Nepal — A 73-year-old Japanese woman climbed to Mount Everest’s peak Saturday, May 19, 2012, smashing her own record to again become the oldest woman to scale the world’s highest mountain.

Tamae Watanabe had climbed Everest in 2002 at the age of 63 to become the oldest woman to scale the mountain, beating the 50-year-old record holder at that time. She had retained the title until she topped herself a decade later. Amazingly she found it a bit more challenging this time, because she broke her back in 2005!

a few days after Tamae's historic climb

May is considered the best month to climb Everest, when climbers get about two windows of good weather for their bid for the summit. Unfortunately, so many climbers make the attempt at this time that there are bottlenecks, slowing down some ascents, and then people come down from the summit too late in the day or night. On May 19th this year, when Tamae set her latest record, three climbers died attempting to reach the peak.

The first clear weather conditions of the spring climbing season were Friday and Saturday, but a windstorm swept the higher altitudes of the mountain by Saturday afternoon. An estimated 150 climbers reached the summit on either day, most of them on Saturday.

There was a traffic jam on the mountain on Saturday. Climbers were still heading to the summit as late as 2:30 p.m. which is quite dangerous. Climbers are advised to not attempt to reach the summit after 11 a.m. The area above the last camp at South Col is nicknamed the “death zone” because of the steep icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.

With the traffic jam, climbers had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying limited amount of oxygen not anticipating the extra time spent. The three climbers who died Saturday were believed to have suffered exhaustion and altitude sickness.

The oldest person to climb Everest is a Nepalese man, Min Bahadur Sherchan, who climbed Everest in 2008 at the age of 76.

fantastic achievement

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Bummed Out And Guilty For Being Alive

David Byrd and two of his famous posters

You know I want to live as long as I can, but in a fit and healthy condition…so I can be active and not whine often like older others about their doctors and disabilities.

On April 27th, I went to the Museum of Bethel Woods, the site of the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969. An artist friend from high school AND college, David Byrd, was having a retrospective of his posters—he did one for the Festival and many for Broadway shows like Godspell, Follies, and Jesus Christ Superstar—and I hadn’t seen him since the eighties.

(left to rt) Jolino, Ira, David, Michael

My college roommate, Michael Futterman, who had also known David at school, met us there, along with David’s friend, Jolino. It was a great little reunion, being together in the midst of David’s work plus all the videos, mementos and photos of the Woodstock weekend that changed the world. The mud-spattered, often-naked, hippie, drugged-out bodies. A generation with great hopes for peace and optimism. David admitted he spent a lot of his Festival time under the stage…cold, hungry, wet and miserable. But the music was great!!

I was still glad the next day that we had survived so long and reconnected, although we had talked about common friends who were gone. Then I received a phone call informing me that just as we were reminiscing at Bethel Woods, another high school classmate had died in a hospice. A few days later I learned that still another high school classmate’s husband of 53 years had also just died on the 28th. Both men fought long losing battles with cancer.

While I am smiling and hugging old friends, while I am exercising, watching cholesterol and improving my tennis, others I know or friends know…are sick, and dying. Lives over. Bums me out. I’ve been sort of numb for two weeks. I feet guilty for still being alive.

dinner with high school friends...Gary second from left—10/2011

Gary Brooks was a rear-echelon military lawyer in a helicopter brigade in Vietnam, but volunteered to fly for over 100 hours in rescue missions. He was exposed to Agent Orange, contracted cancer and died from it. Not fair that such courage and generosity is rewarded so harshly. I was upset that he looked so frail at a dinner last October, though he was humorous, vital and energetic. He did tell me about the cancer and how it started. He also sang a long funny song he wrote about a she-eagle who fell in love with a Huey Helicopter. Helluva lawyer.

My friend, Flora Mason, wrote beautifully about her husband’s dying: “We faced the challenge of his illness together and walked with him on his last steps in life’s journey. It was a privilege, not a duty.” How magnificent to not think of all that caring and effort as a burden.

I am sad that we humans, like all other organic creatures and matter, wear out and die…unless before that we are stepped on by a dinosaur or crushed by a falling piano. Life is such a treasure, a gift. We who are surviving can only be grateful at the opportunity to make the most of the time we have. We make money, clothe and house ourselves, love a few friends and family members, influence and help some strangers, and pray that we do not become so sick or injured that we can’t function.

Muscles, fitness and good health seem petty to me sometimes. Until I see those who don’t have them speeding faster than I toward our graves.

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Kathy Martin Keeps Breaking Running Records

Here is a story about Kathy Martin, a 60-year-old Long island, NY real estate broker who began running when she was 30 and then, “sometime in her late 40s…discovered…she was one of the most remarkable female distance runners in the world…

Last November, in the Philadelphia half-marathon, she finished in 1:28:28, 44th out of 5,888 women. She easily won the 60-to-64 age bracket; only three of her peers were in the top 2,000. Her time was so fast she would have finished sixth among women 30 to 34…

Distance running is more popular than ever. Running USA, a nonprofit organization that promotes the sport, counted 13 million finishers in road races in 2010, up from 5.2 million in 1991 and 500,000 in 1976. Much of the rise comes from aging baby boomers, building their stamina like a retirement nest egg. In 2010, 45 percent of all finishers were 40 or older; in 1991, the percentage was 35 percent, in 1976 only 28 percent.

Recent medical research shows that many of the ravages of aging are not so much inevitable as voluntary. Muscles do not have to shrivel, joints do not have to stiffen. Earlier expectations of physical deterioration were based on studies of sedentary people. But there is a marked difference in durability between the fat and the fit, the layers and the players. People who continue to exercise intensively have a much slower rate of decline…

Martin usually works out seven days a week, not four or five. She runs and does plyometric exercises that emphasize strength and speed. She eats sensibly though not fanatically….

Her face looks young for 60, and her legs have the muscle tone of an athlete half her age…“I hope I do this until the day I die,” she said. “I want to be all used up, just a wisp of dust left.”

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Minimal Exercise Can Keep Your Brain Fit

Here are excerpts from another thoughtful NYTimes article by Gretchen Reynolds. Of course most people don’t pay attention to this advice. I have had to accept that even friends and family members who hear about my diet and activities and even complain about their poor exercise and eating habits generally cannot make themselves change their behavior. Just the way I know that I will gain muscle mass if I lift weights and do more strenuous exercise than just tennis…but I lack the willpower and discipline to stay with it.

In my case I can rationalize that I am tired from tennis or not suffering in my daily life from excess body weight. I am clearly motivated to stay as fit as possible as I age, so that I can enjoy my elder years. But many younger people under 30 I know cannot care about their distant futures, and many middle-aged people I know are “living in the now” as well, unwilling to think that the consequences of junk food, poor diet and minimal exercise are worth giving up for possible future gain. I force myself to keep quiet all the time when they suddenly have their day of reckoning and learn that they need surgery, suffer unnecessary injury, or wonder how they gained 20 pounds and why they are so tired from so little physical effort.

For those of us hoping to keep our brains fit and healthy well into middle age and beyond…activity appears to be critical…Canadian researchers measured the energy expenditure and cognitive functioning of a large group of elderly adults over the course of two to five years. Most of the volunteers did not exercise, per se, and almost none worked out vigorously. Their activities generally consisted of “walking around the block, cooking, gardening, cleaning.” But even so, the effects of this modest activity on the brain were remarkable. While the wholly sedentary volunteers, and there were many of these, scored significantly worse over the years on tests of cognitive function, the most active group showed little decline. About 90 percent of those with the greatest daily energy expenditure could think and remember just about as well, year after year. the results indicate that vigorous exercise isn’t necessary” to protect your mind. Read the rest of this entry »

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Benefits Of Birthdays, Fitness And Posting On this Site

This week celebrates two years of posting on this site. I didn’t know anything about the gym, machines, really good diets, how to make muscles, how many different sports activities there are, what it takes to lose weight, protein shakes, how passionate people are about their physical pursuits. Now I am much better informed. Hopefully some of you are too.

I took a picture of my abs yesterday. Still something showing, even with the extra weight I gained. I swear I am going to make bigger muscles. I promise…

The benefits of fitness and how to become toned really seem so obvious now, even if many of us can’t stick to the diets or gym visits. I read there is a gene, a congenital chemical reason why some like to exercise. I will post the story’s highlights another day. I may have one half of that gene, but after being deprived while traveling for 11 days, I am desperate to stretch and strain. I am not addicted to muscle-building…that is an effort. But it’s easy for me to hit tennis balls 10-plus hours a week. Maybe I have a tennis gene?

I also reached my 70th birthday on April 5th. Given my major goal of keeping fit and able to play sports, be very mobile, nimble and retain my memory…as long as I breathe, I am quite pleased. I know a good bit of this achievement is my genetic makeup. But I also watch my diet, avoid excessive alcohol, no drugs, and lead a pretty clean life. If it sounds boring, then listen on the phone with me as I talk to people in their 50’s who are having cat scans, MRI’s, tests in hospitals, are overweight and tired, hurt when they play sports. I want to avoid that scenario as long as possible.

Today at tennis, a fellow I have been playing with for over a year said he thought I was his age, just 56. I liked stunning him with the facts. After being a bit sad to leave my ’60s and listening to all the well-meant advice about how 70 is “only a number,” I overcame my upset with the sincere rationalization and belief that at least I have lived this long. It is really a blessing. Just listen to people in war and starvation zones all over the world. Just think of those who are sick and seeing doctors, although they are under 50 or 30 or even yesterday a friend under 20, and there is absolutely no justification for any complaint about getting older. OK a tiny regret that we can’t do what we used to do, but then we can at least do now whatever we can do now.

Yesterday a friend in her 40’s said that when she was 30 pounds lighter in high school, she could stand on her hands, even walk on her heavily-calloused hands “around the neighborhood.” She could stay upside down for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. No support. Feet not touching the ground. I am enormously impressed with this revelation. My record in my late 40’s was just 47 seconds. I never reached my goal of one minute. Of course I told my friend she could become fitter now, even though she is a working mom, with a zillion responsibilities more than in high school. She doesn’t have homework these days…

Groggy from a trip to England and Scotland, still jet lagging, another five pounds heavier from fatty foods that were unavoidable there—I have now gained 12 pounds in the last 90 days—I still started exercising again this week. Push ups, crunches, tennis (8 1/4 hours in 4 days and 2-3 scheduled for tomorrow) are all being done easily. Athough my tennis is very poor: I lost three sets of singles today, 2-6, 0-6, 0-6 to someone who usually wins, but after I take 3-4 games. I will get better again. That is the challenge. That is the fun for me. What is your passion?

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Fears And Benefits To Living Until You’re Old

Is there a benefit to living long if your brain functions fine, but your body’s all used up? What if your body is still usable, but your mind has ceased to work? Those are some questions Susan Jacoby asks in this NY Times article . Here are some excerpts to think about…while your mind is still able to perform. Personally I think of these choices as high class problems…at least you have lived lots of years and hopefully enjoyed many many pleasures

…Yet people my age (she’s 65) and younger still pretend that old age will yield to what has long been our generational credo — that we can transform ourselves endlessly, even undo reality, if only we live right. “Age-defying” is a modifier that figures prominently in advertisements for everything from vitamins and beauty products to services for the most frail among the “old old,” as demographers classify those over 85.

…Members of the “forever young” generation…prefer to think about aging as a controllable experience.

…Furthermore, I am acutely aware — and this is the difference between hope and expectation — that my plans depend, above all, on whether I am lucky enough to retain a working brain.

…Contrary to what the baby boom generation prefers to believe, there is almost no scientifically reliable evidence that “living right” — whether that means exercising, eating a nutritious diet or continuing to work hard — significantly delays or prevents Alzheimer’s.

…Good health habits and strenuous intellectual effort are beneficial in themselves, but they will not protect us from a silent, genetically influenced disaster that might already be unfolding in our brains. I do not have the slightest interest in those new brain scans or spinal fluid tests that can identify early-stage Alzheimer’s. What is the point of knowing that you’re doomed if there is no effective treatment or cure?

…I would rather share the fate of my maternal forebears — old old age with an intact mind in a ravaged body — than the fate of my other grandmother (who died of Alzheimer’s). But the cosmos is indifferent to my preferences, and it is chilling to think about becoming helpless in a society that affords only the most minimal support for those who can no longer care for themselves. So I must plan, as best I can, for the unthinkable.

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Aging Doesn’t Have To Look Like This

A friend intended to make me laugh by sending me the three pictures below. He suggested that they are all the same females over a lifetime. The images actually make me angry that some folks let themselves fall apart so badly, increase their odds of sickness or even deadly health, and just lose any interest in being attractive, fit or toned.

The article I posted yesterday explains it all—people are lazy and won’t accept how unfit or fat they really are. And if they do notice, they are unwilling to do much about it. What I hear all the time is “Life is short, so why should I deprive myself of a little pleasure.” (…like some ice cream or tasty meat treat with loads of delicious fat). I have to keep reminding myself that my doctor says I just happen to be able to avoid the foods that are bad for me, while others who are overweight neither can nor want to.

On the other hand, one friend told me last night that he now weighs 189 for the first time in years, and that he has lost 30 to 40 pounds in the last few months. His secret: eat small meals and healthy snacks throughout the whole day instead of skipping breakfast and lunch and gorging himself at a late dinner that barely digests while he is sleeping.

young girls at the beach

teen-age girls at the beach

grandmothers at the beach

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How Risk-Averse Are You In Life And In Sports?

Are you willing to take chances? I think I am. I’ve made investments in start-up companies, begun new books or magazines when I was a publisher, learned to ride a horse English-style at 50 and jump bareback at 52. I began serious tennis lessons at 65, and I’ve taken up squash for the first time when I was 68. But on the tennis court, I often play the safer shot and am gentler with my follow through for fear of hitting the ball too long. Then my opponent often smashes it back for a winner. No good. I must have more courage.

When it comes to food, I know people who order the same meals each time in restaurants. They admit that they are worried about not liking some unknown choice and are then stuck eating something they think tastes horrible. Or not eating it and wasting the money. And not reordering, and then going hungry. Or they don’t want to think about another decision, so they order what is familiar. A seven-day-a-week meat-eating friend told me proudly that he recently ordered trout for the first time and is now eating fish twice a week. He is in his mid-50’s.

These are little steps, but maybe they reveal bigger truths about who we are and how we play at sports and the rest of our lives. Yesterday I gambled and ordered the special appetizer the waitress had described, but not told me the price. As I said to the owner at the end of the meal, all the appetizers on the menu were around $10-13. Imagine my shock when the special one was $19! He said the waitress had made a mistake with the bill and insisted that the price should have been $17. But it certainly makes me leery about taking a chance again and ordering food blindly in his place. That price equaled the cost of some of the entrees. And I was unwilling to ask how much it cost before I ordered it. Too awkward for me.

Yesterday I also had another confront about my appearance. I have been playing many more hours of tennis and squash the past few months since my arm injury kept me from exercises in the gym. My upper-body muscles are gone or soft. I may be as fit as I was in the army at 21, when I ran five miles a day and jumped out of airplanes. But I look older. Of course I am older. So what’s my problem?

Well part of my goal in building muscle—and especially abs is to look “better”—and also younger. As I wrote in a previous post, millions of people reach for those goals by coloring their hair and undertaking plastic surgery. Very common and socially acceptable, although more for women than men.

graybeard Ira—2/1/10

graybeard Ira—2/1/10


But what the hell, you only live once. So tired of how gray my beard and remaining head hair had become, I went back to the hair salon for a cut and color. I was willing to take THAT chance, if not a riskier tennis swing or skiing down a steeper, black diamond trail.

What happened yesterday was a very funny development: the stylist tried a new color on my beard, and I ENDED UP LOOKING TOO YOUNG! This was a minor disaster, and she wasn’t sure how I was taking it and what to do about it. It was hilarious. My beard went from white to almost black. A clearly different color than the hair on my head. I was two-toned, like a tiger…well not that different. But anyone could tell.

the beard that still looks too young—2/12/10

the beard that still looks too young—2/12/10


This was a problem. I considered shaving it off on the spot. A friend at tennis had advised me to do that if I wanted to drop five or more years of appearance. I was almost at that point. I had taken the chance of a newer beard color, because the old one faded back to white weeks before my head hair. Now I was stuck. Of course it is only hair, it will fade in time, grow out, I am not a celebrity or going to job interviews. I am not dying. I will get through this. I will survive.

An hour later, after I learned more of what most women go through, after consultation with the owner of the salon, I had another paint brushing of bleach and coloring agent, and it didn’t look so bad. But I clearly looked more like when I was 20 years younger. And I have a picture to prove it.

my beard in 1980

my beard in 1980

The biggest problem is that I no longer recognize myself in the mirror. And I am sure other people are going to do triple takes when they see me. I will have to insist that, “I am not Chuck Norris.”

Now if I could only apply this gutsiness to my athletic pursuits, I’d be terrific. So many sports are mental games more than physical challenges. I have to take more risk…

…Ha Ha Ha Ha. I told you. Bumped into someone I work with for years—but hadn’t seen in three DAYS— and after her startled look at me, she asked if I was growing a beard! I had to tell her I have had the same beard for over 30 years, but that it was just darker than the last time we met.

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Stalling Aging By Working, Using Botox, And Dating Younger Men

My high school classmate, Kay Rosenfeld, had some thoughts to add about reunions in response to the words from the woman who wrote just below.

Whoever you are — and you’re not one of my classmates because I’m one of Ira’s — I agree with just about everything you’ve said.

There are people that age and then there are those who grow old. I choose to be one of the former — and don’t plan to retire ever. Work keeps the faculties sharp and having to get up in the morning and look human inspires me to keep on looking good!

A little tastefully applied Botox (and whatever else) doesn’t hurt either.

Oh, yeah, one more thing — a younger man as a significant other will keep you on your toes (or whatever position you like). Works for me.

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