Every now and again, I hear of a story that is truly inspirational. One that makes me smile from ear to ear. One that makes me look at the future and know that I too can live a long and fruitful life well into in my 90s. This is one of those stories.
Olga Kotelko is a 94 year old track star who has defied all odds. She has a love of life and a will and drive to live to see 120 years old. Bruce Grierson, author of “What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives,” explores the mystery and wonder that is Olga.
Just what is it that makes this 94 year old woman different than the rest. Grierson looks at every aspect of her life from her sleep habits, hobbies, personality and family history. She also participates in many tests presented by some of the world's leading scientists to see if her DNA can shed some light on the factors that can take us well into our later years. Russell Hepple, a researcher on aging at McGill University in Montreal, who has studied Kotelko extensively has said, “She's remarkable by every criteria that we measured. She has the capability of somebody close to 30 years her junior."
So where did this remarkable woman come from? Kotelko, who lives in Vancouver, is a farmer’s daughter, born in the central Canadian province of Saskatchewan. She raised two children of her own and then became a teacher. She was always active, but really didn’t come into her own in the physical fitness arena till the ripe young age of 77! Olga was also recently featured on NBC's TODAY show where she stated, “Once I started, I thought to myself, ‘Well, gee, why not?’" And why not indeed. Not only does she take part in 11 track and field sports, but she also has managed to win 750 gold medals, and has also broken 26 world records in her age group.
She also told TODAY, "I chose to be a young-at-heart athlete rather than an old woman." Many times she even has to show her proof of ID since most don't believe her when she tells them her age. So what seems to be the key to her longevity? She admits to exercising every day and getting at least 8 hours of sleep. She also says she wakes around 2am each night to stretch and meditate. To keep her mind in tip top shape, she does puzzles and loves Sudoku. Something many researches has said can offset Dementia and Alzheimer's
. She says “Be optimistic and face every day with a smile," along with "Praying, having faith and a good relationship with your family. Friends, a lot of friends.”
What I really love about this story is that it hits close to home. My Icarian grandfather passed almost 2 years ago at the ripe old age of 97. He was just shy of his 98th birthday. If it wasn't for a fall he took on ice when visiting the states from his native Greece, I believe he would still be with us today. He always told me he wanted to live into his 100s, and I knew it was absolutely possible. Like Olga, my grandfather attributed his health to his Mediterranean diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, little to no sugar and/or meat. He also enjoyed his wine just as Mrs. Kotelko admits to doing. He avoided processed foods just like Olga and kept active and social thru his entire life. He lived a positive, stress free lifestyle, which also saved him from having to deal with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
So how can this help all of us? Well accordingly to a census taken on 90 years + population, the total U.S. population aged 90 and over is projected to more than quadruple from 2010 to 2050, according to the National Institute on Aging. With improvements in medicine and public safety, we are able to get better control over infectious diseases and accidental deaths from car accidents. With that being said, we can now look to good genes and hope that with that, along with proper diet and exercise, we can all look forward to living late into our own life.
We should all be so lucky! Whatever the reason is, Olga is doing something right. Wouldn't you agree?