Martha Stewart has rallied her fans to partake in hundreds of proj-ects over the years, raising the bar on cooking, entertaining, gardening, decorating, collecting, crafting, and more crafting.
In her new book, Living the Good Long Life: A Practical Guide to Caring for Yourself and Others, Stewart arms herself with a team of specialists, including several of the nation's best geriatricians, to reshape a more somber landscape. The entertaining and home decorating maven, self-made entrepreneur, philanthropist and grandmother of two insists "successful aging" be gracefully performed in the intrepid manner undertaken by her mother and grandparents.
"They all lived into their 90s and were healthy and vital people until shortly before they died," says Stewart, 71. "I've always been interested in their longevity and in other parts of the world where people are healthy. I always wonder what they're doing to stay healthy."
She sought the counsel of many experts, including her personal trainer, yoga instructor, chiropractor and doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where she established a center for geriatric health, the Martha Stewart Center for Living, in 2008, a year after her mother died.
True to her passion for minutiae, tons of charts, tips and recipes adorn the book's pages. At its core: her "10 Golden Rules" for staying physically, mentally and socially fit. They range from eating well to connecting with others and "staying curious."
"When you're through changing, you're through," she says.
Why conquer this topic now? The season (a season always beckons in Stewart's books and magazines) is upon us, she says.
"Because the Baby Boomers are all coming of age. There is a giant (health) problem looming," she says. "My book can tell people how to take care of oneself in every possible way so you can live well and healthy for a long time. If disease does hit you, and it will eventually, the book has sections on how to let it not define you."
Her mother, Martha Kostyra, died at 93 but stayed strong until shortly before she died. That's how taking care of yourself pays off, says Audrey Chun, physician and director of the Mount Sinai geriatric center.
"Lengthening the functional good time people have is the role of geriatrics," Chun says. "The life Martha's mother led, so active, so full of helping everyone out, and compressing the morbidity at the end of life" is the philosophy the book aims to inspire.
In the introduction, Stewart writes that at age 71, she's so busy she doesn't think about age much at all.
But there's apparently room for one more thing: She said last week on the Todayshow that she has put up a profile on the dating site Match.com. After writing the new book, she notes in the profile, "I was reminded how central good relationships are to happiness and longevity."
A big part of the care plan is to follow a Mediterranean-type diet: leafy green vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits, fish, olive oil. Red meat and processed foods are rarely eaten.
Was this tough, given Stewart's baking and entertaining books full of deliciously rich dessert recipes?
"Not at all," she says. "I've always tried to eat healthy. I grow just about everything I eat. I'm not a fanatic about it all. Everyone is going to eat a piece of cake now and then.
"But things have to be done in moderation," she says. "If I'm given a bagel in the morning, I cut it in half and then into fourths. Then I cut it into eighths. I tear one piece up into bits and scatter it around my plate. I feel like I've consumed a bagel that way. But I would never do that with a croissant. It's too fattening.
"It is really about living it," she says. "It is important if you're going to write it to live it."
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