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Published December 26, 2008, 12:00 AM

Want to slow aging? Get moving!

Youthful seniors share active, connected lives
Juan Ponce de León, as the story goes, spent his latter days slogging through the Florida everglades in search of a legendary fountain, the waters of which promised to restore youth.

By: Jane Ahlin, The Forum

Youthful seniors share active, connected lives

Juan Ponce de León, as the story goes, spent his latter days slogging through the Florida everglades in search of a legendary fountain, the waters of which promised to restore youth.

There’s no evidence he achieved his goal, but all that hiking, hacking and general mucking about may have done as much for the Spanish explorer as a sip from the fabled font.

“Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put ’em together, you’ve got a kingdom,” said Jack LaLanne, who at age 94 knows a thing or two about keeping time at bay.

And he is more than willing to share that knowledge, as are Carol Spichke and Fred Quam, two Fargo residents who have achieved their own measure of healthy longevity.

The Forum asked all three about their lives and habits. Many appeared to intersect in areas like exercise, staying connected to their community and having a positive view of life.

All appropriate ingredients, it would seem, for those looking for the recipe to stay forever young.

Living in the moment

LaLanne, the man some call the grandfather of fitness, didn’t wait for questions during a phone interview from his home in California.

“Forget about what you used to do,” said LaLanne, who cranks out thoughts like he’s doing reps on a Nautilus machine.

“Think about what you’re doing and what you’re going to do. Then your body stays young, your mind stays young,” said LaLanne, who first introduced himself to the American public with a television show in the 1950s.

These days, when he isn’t on TV touting the virtues of juicers, he keeps busy with public appearances and a daily two-hour workout that includes weight lifting and swimming.

“Everybody doesn’t have to work out two hours. It’s an ego thing with me,” LaLanne said.

“If the average person can work out vigorously for 20 to 30 minutes, three or four times a week, it would be plenty.”

LaLanne said he eats only two times a day, once in the morning and again in the evening.

He said every day he consumes eight egg whites, six to seven servings of fruit and at least 10 raw vegetables.

“Would you get your dog up in the morning, give him a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a donut?

“Think of how many millions of people do that and wonder why they get old,” said LaLanne, who consumes 30 to 40 supplements a day, all of them from natural sources.

Known for feats of endurance, LaLanne said he’s been kicking one idea around for years.

“I want to swim from Catalina Island to Los Angeles underwater,” he said. “I’d be underwater 22 hours, change tanks every hour and a half.”

LaLanne isn’t sure he’ll ever get around to the challenge.

Then again, maybe he will.

“Dying is easy,” he said. “Living is an athletic event.”

‘It’s all maintenance’

Carol Spichke uses a mechanic’s word to explain why she looks decades younger than her age suggests.

“It’s all maintenance,” said Spichke, who also credits her parents and the period in which she was born – the early 1930s.

“There was no fast food. They rotated their crops so there weren’t a lot of chemicals. I don’t know anybody who had an allergy back then,” said Spichke, who in the 1980s was the first woman elected to the West Fargo City Council.

She grew up in Moorhead, where her mother gardened and canned what she grew.

Spichke’s father hunted and fished to put food on the table.

“Dad would go out and shoot pigeons at some farmer’s place and we’d have squab under glass,” she said.

“It was a different era,” said Spichke, who still has many of the friends she made growing up.

“I think it’s that stability of being in an environment where you are around people who are nurturing,” she said.

On top of that, eating right and exercise have always been top priorities.

Spichke has had the same trainer for 13 years. Last January, for her 75th birthday, her trainer surprised her with 75 long-stemmed roses.

Not afraid to try new things, Spichke recently learned to play mahjongg, an ancient Chinese puzzle game.

She takes vitamins and supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin.

Fish oil, too.

“I figure it can’t hurt,” she said.

One big family

Fred Quam lives in an independent living center surrounded by a community of seniors.

Still, his fellow residents are sometimes taken aback when they learn he’s 92.

“A lady the other day said, ‘I thought you were 72,’ ’’ said Quam, who said if there is a secret to living a long and healthy life, he’s not privy to it.

“As far as genealogy enters into it, I had a grandmother who lived to 92 and my mother to 99,” he said.

A veteran of World War II, Quam was a longtime “wrench turner” for the Air National Guard’s Happy Hooligans in Fargo before his retirement in 1976.

He still drives and volunteers in the community when he can.

Part of each day is spent in the fitness room of his living complex.

Quam said he works out on exercise machines or takes a stroll on the treadmill.

An active member of the Fargo Senior Commission board, Quam is also very involved with the Fargo Air Museum. He was instrumental in establishing a research library there that he said is just now taking off.

He has a computer and starts each morning by sending e-mails to grandchildren.

If they don’t hear from him, they start to worry, Quam said.

For the most part, Quam said he never paid much attention to what he ate because his wife of 58 years did that for him.

“If I did have a problem of some kind, she always made sure I was on the right diet,” Quam said, referring to his wife, Lois, who died in 2002.

Like Spichke, Quam said he takes vitamins, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin, which are said to be good for rebuilding connective tissue and maintaining joints.

Now and then, he enjoys a beer or glass of wine.

“Living here helps a lot, too,” said Quam, referring to the living center.

“You don’t stay holed up. It’s one big family.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555