Bigger than Biceps: Celebrating 94 years of healthy living


During my days of wasting time scrolling through social media, I often stumble across an article about couples sharing their secrets of a happy marriage after 50 years. Not too often do I find seniors sharing their secrets on living a happy, healthy life.

After my column a few weeks back, "Choosing a healthy lifestyle and keeping loved ones around," I received a lovely typewritten note from a 93-year-old reader who lives in North Bennington. He wrote, "Next month I will be 94 with no apparent health problems and aches, pains headaches and the doctor at the hospital said a person my age is not supposed to have a handshake like I have. I still drive, have a garden and do all sorts of things people much younger can't do."

John Wandrei owed his pure stature to gardening, walking around his property, going to church and making the right decisions. The latter is his advice to those younger than he.

"The precedent of church has a saying that's what you think can make a difference, the choices that you make. They can also make it healthy," he said. "Apparently a lot is your choices and how you think. I wonder sometimes about me if I think too much and try to get answers to questions."

Nobody always knows what the immediate outcome of a choice will be, but realistically, there's a chance you'll know what will happen when you identify a bad choice, and go with it. When it comes to your health, always go above and beyond. One little thing can impact many big things, even without you knowing. For example, continuously consuming sugary drinks and getting cavities and not treating them could lead to chronic infections.

Wandrei said that when he was 5-years-old the doctor wondered if he even had a thyroid gland — which regulates metabolism, growth and maturation of the human body. He also said he never played sports growing up, which could contribute to his spotless hospital bills. However, when he can't shovel snow or when weather conditions aren't ideal, Wandrei uses a trampoline in his home to get keep his joints moving.

"What you eat can determine quite a bit about your health. A lot of people have aches and pains and things like that, fruit has quite a bit of water, it provides a lubrication for your feet and elbows and things like that," Wandrei said. "Parts of your body that move. If I drink water and fruits and vegetables, it provides lubrication so that your muscles can move more freely."

Wandrei still bakes and cooks. He makes his own ice cream, grinds up wheat to make oatmeal and whips up the best apple pie.

"I still garden and I eat and pick up my strawberries, now if you have physical exercise, using every part of your body, use it or lose it," he said. "I mean, hey, if you don't use your body, if you don't use your mind and try to learn things, you're going to go backwards. Just have to think about that. Didn't play sports. I can't help but wonder [how] I'm where I'm at now."

The mind and body connection is an important point one to note. It's not about eating a salad and expecting a six-pack overnight (unless we're talking about beer), but having the motivation to commit to a better lifestyle day in and day out, not just on the weekdays.

Wandrei's words:

•Eat fruits and vegetables.

•Try to grow your own garden, or little pots of produce.

•Drink a lot of water (8 cups or four 16/18 ounce water bottles per day).

•Exercise, even if it's walking around the block.

•Make the right choices.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-490-6471.


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