Sam Redman's Musings

Random thoughts on a variety of subjects

Jack LaLanne’s death at 96 and the quest for eternal youth

By Sam Redman

It is so sad to learn that Jack LaLanne has died. I liked him a lot.

But, I had already felt this same sadness several months ago when I saw a snapshot of him sitting with his son, in a full multi-megapixel photo taken perhaps six months ago in a restaurant near his home in California, showing him in close up crystalline detail. When I saw the photo, I had commented that I was very disappointed to discover that he, at age ninety-five, looked very much like many other men whom I have known who have been fortunate enough to make it into their mid-nineties, nothing spectacular and certainly not a model of the secrets of the preservation of youth. He definitely appeared (from the photo) capable enough to be sitting on his own in a public place without assistance and even bright eyed and happy. But he looked like a typical 95 year old (even somewhat frail) and really not any better than many other similarly active nonagenarians I have known. What was shocking to me (as someone who has been fascinated with LaLanne’s health guru empire over the years) was that he didn’t look like anyone who had discovered answers to the hidden mysteries or the methods of preserving the radiance and energy of youth.

A nice photo of Jack LaLanne in his nineties:
Jack LaLanne at 93

Now the reason for my dismay stemmed from having seen photos and videos of him in his seventies, which did give that “youthful secret” impression to a great extent. However, as I approach the “golden” age of 70 myself (just turned 69 a few months ago), from my own “health trip” experiences and having met and talked with many very healthy people in their seventies, who simply exercise moderately and follow a medically acceptable dietary regimen, I find that looking similar to the way Jack LaLanne appeared at that age, achieving (or maintaining) a somewhat youthful robustness, is quite common and easily attainable. Actually many of those I have met could pass for men in their fifties if they chose to maintain such a deception. Of course, a lot of their state of being (and my own health) may be not be due to good health practices, but the benefits of favorable genetics and the good fortune of not being exposed to environmental situations which could cause debilitating and crippling illnesses.

And while I have observed and known these dynamic, youthful septuagenarians, I have yet to know anyone in their mid to late nineties who, although appearing pleasantly healthy and capable, didn’t look their age (the way Jack LaLanne looked in that recent photo).

A great image of Jack LaLanne at 71:
Jack LaLanne at 71's

So, as I said, I was saddened then… because, like some others have posted, I have always wished the best for him and was always hopeful that somehow Jack had truly discovered that fountain of youth and that he would still show that age defying robustness in his nineties (and into his hundreds) and be looking like he did in his seventies. But, he didn’t; he looked very old (just like you might expect of someone his age).

I still believe that it is very wise to follow good health measures, living moderately and exercising appropriately, because I have experienced those benefits myself (and people often say… “I can’t believe you are almost seventy,” although perhaps they are just stroking my ego). But, from what I have seen in those who make it into their eighties and nineties, it seems apparent that practicing all the disciplines (at least what is currently known) doesn’t yet provide a way to avoid the inevitable ravages of old age. Jack LaLanne’s experience has been quite a senescence reality check for me.

Although really, I suppose that such an epiphany is just another step in what some people call, “discovering one’s own mortality.”

— Sam

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2 comments on “Jack LaLanne’s death at 96 and the quest for eternal youth

  1. Cliff
    January 30, 2011

    Alright, that was well written. Last year, I saw Mr. Lalanne appeared on Public Television to aid one of their fundraisers that they have periodically on a local station live. Back when I saw this I commented to others that Jack looked frail indeed, maybe not in the best of health. And when he answered the questions, he answered in a fatigued way, I believe his wife who did look to be in fairly good shape helped him. Jack could basically only answer back with cliche like things, it was clear to me that it was a challenge for him to. I figured maybe he had a busy schedule, many people might slow down traveling and making appearances.

    But before we decide that if Jack couldn’t do it and not to take anything away from him because this can have to do with environment and genetics as you said, there is actually someone who is not that well known that lived to be 104 years old! And not only that, around a year ago, on his daily morning walk, he got hit by a van! Sad, so maybe he wasn’t at the height of his senses for this to happen but that can happen to anyone as far as that goes. Who am I talking about? Former Boxer Kid Dundee, Coney Island strongman Joe Rollino. You can look up any article on him on the web. Here is one: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/nyregion/12ironman.html . I believe he was a vegetarian too but I’d tend to believe probably had a diet involving pastas and spaghetti sauces. There’s lots on Joe Rollino around, I believe he knew Charles Atlas and who knows how much longer Rollino might have gone. Also, I believe one of the Weider brothers is around still.

    I found your blog because I am just reading a few bloggers feelings concerning Mr. Lalanne, an American Hero, he’d do some of those things we all know he did such as swimming chained while tugging a bunch of boats. We can remember that, we can try to do things that people would not believe possible.

  2. Cliff
    February 2, 2011

    Listen to how lucid Joe Rollino was at 103 years old, he definitely had something, can one become a vegetarian to that end? I’m not sure.

    http://www.coneyislandhistory.org/voices/index.php/ObjectDetail/Show/object_id/605/search_mode/search

    http://www.coneyislandhistory.org/voices/

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This entry was posted on January 24, 2011 by and tagged , , , , .