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Deborah Szekely, the Godmother of Health and Fitness, is 100 years old and Here is What She Thinks About It!

Photographs taken at a previous time, used with the permission of Deborah Szekely.

On May 3rd, 2022, I was fortunate to be among a jolly group who helped Deborah Szekely celebrate her 100th birthday. I am so inspired by her vitality, wisdom and compassion. She has been called the Godmother of Health and Fitness, responsible for the modern wellness movement. A movie about her amazing life is in the works. 

I interviewed Deborah to ask what gift she wants more than anything else for her 100th birthday. and she said it is to plant trees all over Tecate, the place that has given her so much. Trees will shelter its residents, contribute to the beauty of the community, encourage more environmental diversity and help slow climate change. She started a fund called "Green Umbrella" and you may contribute to that tax deductible fund here

Here is the message she delivered from Rancho La Puerta, the spa she started in Tecate, Mexico, with her husband when she was 17 years old.—Chaz Ebert


Yes, Today is My 100th Birthday

by Deborah Szekely

I awoke early at Rancho La Puerta, listening for the sounds of something happening on the lawn outside my casita just as I did when Sarah and Alex were little. "Shush," I would whisper to them. "Let's get dressed!" Back then, we allowed cars on the property, so I could hear many doors being closed gently. Staff members were arriving. Tables were being set up with big pots of hot chocolate. The tamales and conchas were ready.

At 7:00 a.m., I came out the front door still in my bathrobe (a tradition) and was greeted by a mariachi band in full voice, trumpet echoing off the hills, big bass guitar thumping, violins keening. The patio had been turned into a bower of flowers. And one dear friend, José Lupe, has brought me one rose per year of my life since I was in my 30s. What a wonderful way to start the day!

Dew was on the grass. The sunrise slanted toward Mt. Kuchumaa, painting it a muted, mystical indigo. Several hundred voices broke into singing Las Mañanitas, the Mexican tradition at birthdays.

Despierta, mi bien, despierta. Wake up, my darling, wake up.

Amidst all the greetings and enjoying hot chocolate and conchas, I realized: I am a statistic and a curiosity—only 1.73 of us (of me!) per 10,000 people live this long. 100! To me, it's only a number on paper. I cannot accept it. In no way can I be 100!

My gratitude for my long life is inexpressible. The number, however, makes no sense to me. Here I am at 100, but I still feel like the young woman who arrived here with Edmond in 1940. I still make endless decisions in my life, large and small. There is still so much expected of me, and I expect a great deal from myself. I am totally unprepared for being this "old." For one thing, so many people come up to me and ask what my secret is, what words of wisdom I can share. And I'm speechless.

But for now being 100 is a giggle. I dine out with two friends and, sure enough, they sneak the server a message that I'm celebrating a 100th birthday this month and here comes a nice little dessert under a single candle ... and with three spoons.

I am certain of this: I thank my angels for this blessing of long life. I call them angels, but I think of them more as guardians and guides. I owe my great good health, keeping all my marbles, and—most of all—the support of many many very good friends to these angels of mine. All my life, they have given me the same advice: don't act your age! To put it another way, I like to quote the pundit who said, "Beware of acting your age. Act the age you want to be!"

What will you do with your years to come? Whatever the circumstances, never act your age. Play an active role in your health (every friend of mine and Rancho La Puerta knows how) and keep your positive attitude.

Out of all my blessings, I point to my attitude first. I am an optimist. A Pollyanna. Many of you may be too young to remember the movie (1960) or the book, which came out before even I was born, so let me say that Pollyanna was a cheerful little girl who turned her entire town—grouches and all—over to the power of thinking optimistically.

Optimism against all odds is how things get done in this topsy-turvy world.

Enjoy feeling blessed when you wake up. Fight on the side of goodness and what's right. Receive the blessings of nature when you're sad. Tell the blues to fly away. And greet everyone you pass on your walk today.

Oh, that's right. Now it's time for MY walk. I take one every day. I hope you do, too! Having been a pioneer all my life, I will turn my thoughts today to breaking new ground again.

Thank you for listening to this 100-year-old. Onward to 101 I go!

Much love and blessings to you all,

Deborah

Chaz Ebert

Chaz is the CEO of several Ebert enterprises, including the President of The Ebert Company Ltd, and of Ebert Digital LLC, Publisher of RogerEbert.com, President of Ebert Productions and Chairman of the Board of The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, and Co-Founder and Producer of Ebertfest, the film festival now in its 22nd year.

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