Maggie Beer on growing old without feeling old

3 min read

Could 70 be the new 50? Celebrity cook Maggie Beer and Professor Marita McCabe from the Institute for Health and Ageing bring to light how life can only get better with age.

To describe Maggie Beer, 71, as a dynamo would be an understatement. After building her food empire and being named Senior of the Year, 2010, the gastronome formed her own Maggie Beer Foundation. Established in 2014, it strives to provide nutritious, flavoursome food for those in aged care, and ultimately seeks to influence government policy for the delivery of better services.

When a typical day can involve taste-testing new flavours of ice-cream, addressing CEOs, posing for photo shoots and overseeing her heritage guest house, how does Maggie maintain such high energy levels, when many her age are winding down?

“For me, the small things, such as picking food from my garden, or having beautiful music playing, make every difference to my day and they are the things I always seek because they ignite a passion for life within me. Knowing what aspects of life ignite your passion is a big part of positive ageing,” she says.

Professor Marita McCabe, Director of the Institute for Health and Ageing agrees. “It’s important to remain engaged with friends, family and other activities in life. Go out, do something useful for others,” she says.

Professor McCabe also warns, “men are frequently at greater risk of becoming socially isolated, and so they may need to give greater attention to remaining engaged with friends, family and the broader community.”

While a prescription to indulge your interests and attend more parties sounds wonderful, what other factors will help us obtain a longer, happier life?

Keep physical

“Exercise is extremely important for people at all stages of life, but particularly as they get older,” says Professor McCabe. “Keep it at a realistic level, however, and remember that enjoyment is often the key.

For Maggie, “Spending time in my garden is my favourite way to wind down mentally, while at the same time the amount of exercise I’m doing goes unnoticed. I tend to go for the kind of exercise that doesn’t fill me with dread at the thought of it. I love walking as much as gardening because both offer something much bigger than just movement and physical exertion.”

Eat well

“Dairy, protein and fibre are particularly important for maintaining musculoskeletal health (which prevents fractures) as well as cognitive function,” says Professor McCabe.

And, if anyone can provide advice, here, it’s Maggie. “The more I immerse myself in the world of aged care as part of my role with the Foundation, the more I recognise all the things I want to ensure for my own health. It is so important to continue to eat well as we age, all the more so because we face so many extra health challenges when the body doesn’t quite bounce back in the same way it once did,” she says.

Be wise about retirement

The time to stop work, or choose to slow down, varies immensely from one individual to another. For Maggie, who has had a television career, run an award-winning restaurant, and developed a gourmet food range among other projects, the time to wind down is far in the future. “The simple fact that I love what I do makes every day a new chance to share my love of food with others. Helping people to bring the joy of a good food life into theirs on a daily basis is what drives me and I am lucky to have every opportunity to do so,” says the grandmother of five. “Beyond that as my personal ethos, I’m always happy to poke my head in when doors open in front of me, so there’s no plan around what I hope to achieve but more a willingness to be part of ideas as they present themselves,” she adds.

Conversely, Professor McCabe says, “If work is a burden and lacks interest for the person, it is not useful for their overall development to work past the age of 70. This activity is likely to drain energy rather than add to the wellbeing of the person.”

With a schedule as demanding as Maggie’s can sometimes be, does she have any final tips on how to perk yourself up when you’re lagging? Ever the foodie, she quips: “Dare I say, espresso?”

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This Information current as at 22/11/2016.

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