February 15, 2007


My ancestors were avid gardeners. I took the photo on the left in the Irish village of my mother's ancestors and the one on the right in the English village of my Father's.

Both my maternal and paternal grandparents were farmers that lived to their mid- to -late nineties and maintained their own households until their death. I came from sturdy Irish-English stock and I remember my grandparents leading active, healthy lives up to the day they passed. I hope that I've inherited their good genes.

I was watching a recent episode of the Today Show about Baby Boomers turning 60 this year . They declared that " 60 is the new 40. " Well I'm two years older than those Boomers, but bless their hearts, thanks to them I feel that I have a new lease on life. Hot diggity dog !

I've seen 40 year-olds that looked 60 but I haven't seen many 60 year-olds, without surgery, that is, look 40. Cher is one of the Baby Boomers that's turning 60. No doubt she's had some nips and tucks, so she could actually pass for 40. She's also laughing all the way to the bank, having made $250 million from her farewell tour and being the first female performer to do so. My favorite is Diane Keaton . She's 60 , looks it, and seems happy with who she is. Rare for Hollywood or, for that matter, today's generation. Not that there's anything wrong with that as Jerry Seinfeld says.

I used to fret over the landmarks - 30, 40, 50, 60, until I read a story that profoundly touched me. A young mother with cancer wrote about how she struggled each day to live and how more than anything else wanted to be alive when her children grew up. Gulp. And then, I remembered that my own dear Mother died from a miscarriage at the tender age of 40. I no longer waste time on such vanity. Well, maybe, once in a while when I talk back to that old lady that stares at me in the mirror everyday.

I'm grateful for the latest medical advances of which I've been a beneficiary. Had I been born in my mother's generation I would by now be blinded by cataracts ( too much sun without protection ) and crippled by plantar faciitis, or heel spurs ( overuse of the feet ) , both gardening occupational related conditions.

Two painless procedures, thanks to lasers and cryosurgery, have given me new eyes and feet . Any gardeners or athletes out there suffering from plantar faciitis should check out cryosurgery - it takes 10 minutes as an outpatient, a tiny incision, no pain during or after surgery. Recovery is very swift.

As far as I'm concerned, health , both mentally and physically, is the key to being 60 and feeling 40 and those of us who are serious gardeners can attest to this. Gardening is rigorous work that uses muscles you didn't even know you had.

Case in point : My neighbor, a health club addict, and I decided to dig up the grub infested parkway in front of our house one sunny May day. She started at one end and I the other and we met in the middle.

The next day I rang her bell to have her join me in sowing the newly dug parkway with grass. She opened the door and I could tell by the expression on her face that she was in a great deal of pain. She looked at me in amazement and asked if I was sore. " From what ?, " I asked, " Digging that little area ? " She was incredulous for two reasons : one, that I never went to the health club, and two, I was 10 years older than her.

For the most part, dedicated gardeners are a healthy lot. I've installed gardens from sunrise to sunset and have had Generation X helpers tire out before me.

According to a recent Tufts University study the key to feeling and looking 40 when you're 60 is one hour of weight lifting and 4 hours of aerobics a week. Groan. Their research has shown that this regime increased the participants strength by 76 %. As always its advisable to check with your doctor before undertaking any exercise program, and the aforementioned doesn't have to be done all at once - it's best to spread it throughout the week.

Gotta go now. Gotta get my 42 year-old body to pump some iron and run up and down the stairs of my three story house. Spring is just around the corner and I've got to get ready for another gardening season.

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