Last week 64 year-old American grandmother, Diana Nyad, swam from Cuba to Florida, a distance of 110 miles which she completed in 53 hours. She is the first person to swim this route without a shark cage and she first attempted this feat in 1978 at the age of 28. This week she has many detractors who are accusing her of ‘cheating’, although there are actually very few rules (unlike swimming the Channel). She wore a special body suit and mask to protect her from the jellyfish, but many people felt this may actually have impaired her swimming as well as offering protection.
But how many of us, young or old, would have even got in the water?
She had tried on three previous occasions to make this swim, but only succeeded when she was 64. She said on arriving in Florida:
“We should never give up; you are never too old to chase your dreams”
There is now a growing body of evidence from around the world that age is no barrier to endurance and what really matters is:
Both my grandmothers were dead by 70 and old photos show women who would be taken to be in their 90s these days. People these days don’t expect to be old at 60 and it is that positive attitude that keeps them fitter and healthier. It used to be thought that muscle strength was lost with age, and that is true if you are sedentary, but if you keep using them your muscle power and endurance can be better than younger people.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, aged 68, has just returned from Antarctica where due to severe frostbite he was forced to abandon his attempt the cross the continent in winter. However in 2009 he became the oldest Briton to climb Mount Everest at the age of 65. The oldest man to climb Mt Everest is Yuichiro Miura (Japan, b. 12 October 1932), who reached the summit on 23 May 2013 at the age of 80 years 223 days.
Having future goals or plans and a sense of purpose will also keep you going longer. Resilient people have also been shown to have strong support networks- family, friends and community.
You don’t have to swim the Channel or run a marathon, just keeping active by walking, exercise classes, gardening etc, keeping a positive attitude, planning for your future and keeping connected to friends and family are all ways that you can stay ‘younger’ for longer.