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101 and Counting!

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Ruth Colvin, 101

By Larry Hayes
At 101, Ruth Colvin—a pioneer in adult literacy education–has seen and hear it all.

I had the honor of interviewing Ruth recently at the Santa Clara City Library hosted by Read Santa Clara and Vision Literacy—two nonprofits providing adult literacy programs in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The reason I was asked was due to my background in adult literacy going back to my graduate days at Syracuse University from 1968-70 studying Literacy Journalism under Dr. Bob Laubach, son of legendary Dr. Frank C. Laubach, the father of adult literacy.

It turns out that Ruth launched her adult literacy program Literacy Volunteers of America, in 1962 in Syracuse. A few years after Dr. Frank Laubach launched Laubach Literacy in 1955. Interesting that both started in Syracuse. She knew Dr. Frank and Dr. Bob but our paths never crossed.

From research, I knew that Ruth had an amazing resume: author of nine books, taught literacy training in 26 developing countries, received the President’s Volunteer Action Award from President Ronald Regan in 1987, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2006 and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1991.

Amazing! What an inspiring person at any age. In all honestly, I didn’t know what to expect meeting Ruth for the first time at age 101.

Could she still walk? Talk? Hear? See? I only know one person age 100+ and that person is confined to a wheelchair and unable to engage in a conversation.

Then I meet Ruth. Shattering all the stereotypes we have about the elderly.  Walking upright, proud, without a walker. Alert and articulate. Responded to everything I asked and then asked me some hard questions!

Full of life, fun and high energy. I was truly impressed and inspired. At 101, Ruth continues to work with students as a tutor at Literacy NYC and serves on the board of ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy nonprofit in the U.S.

During my lifetime, I have known only three truly outstanding individuals making a difference in this world—Dr. Frank C. Laubach, Dr. Walter M. Bortz, II and now Ruth Colvin.

P.S. She is the commencement speaker at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY in May. Still going strong!

Am I Necessary?

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Still-NecessaryNot a question you normally ask yourself when you’re young and healthy. But when you suffer a major jolt later in your life, the question may come up.

At age 86, legendary longevity expert Dr. Walter M. Bortz received a
tremendous jolt last year with the passing of his wife Ruth Anne after 62 years of marriage.

He received another jolt recently undergoing 8 hours of ablation surgery to repair an irregular heart beat (atrial fibrillation).

Introspectively, Dr. Bortz asks himself: “Am I still necessary?”

His answer? A resounding yes as he continues to teach at Santa Barbara City College, write a blog for the Huffington Post and work on his 9th book: “Aging Is Negotiable.”

Life does not stop but goes on for one of America’s most distinguished scientific experts on healthy aging and longevity.

I was asked a question recently by my CPA. “Why do you still publish ActiveOver50? You’ve been doing it for 12 years and you’re not getting rich or any younger.”

A fair question from those who look at life from a bottom line perspective.  I ask myself at age 77: “What keeps me going?”

Crazy as it may sound but since my grad days at Syracuse University in 1970, I’ve always wanted to be a publisher. Along the way, I worked as a newspaper reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, created and managed marketing programs worldwide for high tech companies and then launched my own marketing and advertising agency in 1983 at age 43.

Twenty-two years later at age 65, I launched ActiveOver50—my dream of becoming a publisher come true, even though it took 35 years to fulfill. The passion remains the same today as then—to provide useful, interesting information to help boomers and seniors enjoy a longer, healthier life.

The other day I met one of my neighbors, 83, taking his daily stroll.
Rain or shine, he walks around the block several times everyday.

“Your magazine helps me a lot. Thank you for the book.” He calls it a book. I call it my calling.

His comment made my day and reconfirms why I still work. It’s not about the money. It’s about the people I meet and help along the way.

Meeting people like Dr. Bortz and my neighbor inspire and keep me moving. Am I necessary? You bet. And life goes on.

Time to Move?

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Q: “What is a CCRC?What’s the difference between an Active Adult and Independent Living Community? I’m looking to sell my home, bank the equity and rent from now on.”—B.M.

A: I agree it’s confusing. That’s why in this issue  we published our first annual Bay Area “Housing & Resource Guide.” First  of all, CCRC stands for Continuing Care Retirement Community. This type of community offers all levels of living: independent, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. You can live here forever. When needed, you can transition from one level of care to another. This is one of their strong selling points. Most CCRCs require a buy-in and charge a monthly service fee.
\Active Adult and Independent Living communities
are also confusing. Examples of Active Adult include The Villages Golf & Country Club, San Jose and Rossmoor, Walnut Creek both in the San Francisco  Bay Area. Unlike Independent Living, in Active Adult communities, you buy—not rent—your housing, although rentals are sometimes available.

There is a Homeowners Association monthly fee in Active Adult communities which cover the cost of all the services and amenities including 24/7 gated security.

Q: My 87 year old mother needs some help around the house. Who do you recommend for Home Care? —C.L

A: There are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of Home Care providers in the SF Bay Area. Most offer similar non-medical services at competitive prices. For starters, check out the Home Care advertisers in this issue of ActiveOver50. I know the owners personally  and highly recommend them. You don’t want just anyone taking care of your mother. Ask around. Do your homework first.

Got a question?

Ask me anything—email:
Or call 408.921.5806.

Best Christmas Present EVER

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FitbitMy daughter gave me a Fitbit Zip™ for Christmas. Turns out to be my best Christmas present ever.

It tracks my steps, distance and calories burned  and syncs those stats wirelessly to my computer. My goal is 10,000 steps a day which is what the medical doctors recommend.

Now, I’ve always considered myself to be pretty active. Play tennis 1-2 times a week, lawn bowl with my wife at least once a week and walk often.

Since Christmas, I’ve been wearing my fitness tracker every day. To my surprise and shock, I’m NOT as active as I thought. Except on the days that I play tennis, I’m lucky to rack up 5,000 steps.

To reach 5,000, I need to walk at least one mile which I do at the Campbell Community Center track. One mile, four laps equals 2,000 steps.  My goal is to walk 10,000 steps a day—five miles— but one step at a time for now.


My Fitbit motivates me to keep moving which  is great. You can easily attach the device to your clothes or slip into your pocket. Because it’s so small, you have to be extra careful not to lose it. On a scale of 1-10, I give it a 9. Cost: $59.95 ordered direct from Often discounted at retail stores.

The Miracle of Music

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By Larry W. Hayes

A few weeks ago, I visited my Aunt Fern, 91, in a nursing home in Newton, KS. She’s like my “second mother” and very dear to me.

Her daughter Robin warned me that Fern had declined a lot since I last visited—about 18 months ago.

So I expected the worst but it was still shocking and  sad to see her lying down on a sofa chair propped up in front of a large TV–unable to move or lift her head.

She did recognize me and did her best to engage  in a conversation, although she struggled. Like millions of older Americans, she suffers from dementia and declining health.

Most of her wakening hours are spent in front of a
TV that she neither watches or listens to. It is just on. I didn’t see a radio or hear any music at the nursing home.

What could I do to put a smile on her face?

Recently my wife and I saw an inspiring, moving documentary, “Alive Inside” which shows how music brings happiness and joy to loved ones with dementia.

Upon my return to California, I immediately ordered an iPod for my aunt Fern.  Robin downloaded Fern’s favorite songs and played them for her.

“She smiles and enjoys the music,” says Robin.
“What seemed more interesting to her is the technology. That such a little device could hold so many songs!”  Fern was always a smart lady!

Amazing what music and technology can do to help those you love. Even help bring out a smile! To learn  more about the miracle of music for dementia patients, go to:

How Fast Do We Age?

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My father was in his early 40’s when I joined the Air Force at age 17 and was sent to Tripoli, Libya for an 18-month tour. When I returned and saw my father again, I was shocked “how fast he had aged.” What I didn’t realize at the time was that my father was probably thinking the same about me.

 Legendary wellness and longevity expert Dr. Walter M. Bortz, II wrote an excellent article in the Winter 2014 issue of ActiveOver50 magazine on this topic entitled “How Fast Do We Age?” Accordingly to Dr. Bortz, the average “fit” person loses 0.5 percent per year from age 20 to 70. That means your strength, agility, eyesight, hearing—everything declines every year which is the normal process of aging.

However, the average “unfit” person may lose 5 to 10 percent per year. Huge difference which is a major reason why it pays to exercise and keep moving as long as you can. Many of us wrongly believe that aging and longevity are directly connected to your DNA. In other words, if your parents/grandparents lived a long, healthy life, then you will, too.  Not necessarily so. The truth is that your genes account only 20% to 25% toward longevity.

The single, best thing to slow down the aging process is exercise. Other things help, including healthy eating, lifestyle, positive attitude and being engaged in life.

No matter what we do, we’re getting older every day. That’s normal. But you can slow down the aging process. For more information on “How Fast Do We Age?” by Dr. Walter M. Bortz, check out his article at

Playing USTA tennis at 70+

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L-Hayes2You may know me as the publisher/editor of ActiveOver50—a media company encouraging boomers and seniors to stay active as long as possible. I’m also captain/player on three USTA 3.5 teams.

This year, I was co-captain of a 55+ 7.0 team, captain of a 65+ 3.5 team and player on a 3.5 70+ team. Combined record to date: 14-3. Not bad for a 74 year old!

My secrets?  Exercise and a positive outlook on life.

For exercise, I play tennis 2-3 times a week, lawn bowl 1-2 times a week with my wife Gloria, fish* 1-2 times a month and walk as much as I can.

Exercise is important for your health but “what you eat and how much” are equally paramount. Chow down on fruits and veggies. Stay away from “sodas.” They will kill you. Drink water instead.

What’s it like playing USTA tennis at 70? Very rewarding. Most guys who are playing tennis at 70+ are in pretty good shape.

And they are crafty–using every trick in the trade to win points such as “lobbing,” and hitting angle and drop shots.

Although everyone wants to win, just being able to play USTA tennis at this age is a blessing.

For tips on healthy living and longevity, read Dr. Walter M. Bortz’s latest article “Aging: Fate or Choice” in the Fall 2013 issue of ActiveOver50. Visit

*Like to fish? If interested, email me at We fish
all over Northern California in both fresh water and ocean.