Tina Turner was posing for pantyhose ads and still “rollin’ on the river” in her late 50s. Other 1960s music stars seem busier these days than counterparts in their 20s—just look at Sir Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, or Willie Nelson. There are even musicians still going strong who came of age before the Love Generation.
The “Over the Hill” gang is showing incredible health and vitality. In fact, most of us hit our stride at an age that would shock previous generations. Magazines are now trumpeting 50 as the new 30, so where does that put mid-life?
You can’t pin all this golden age vitality on fountains of youth, plastic surgery, or miracle cures only rich musicians can afford. These pros are discovering something that many recreational musicians also know: there are lifestyle choices you can make to help you feel young well past retirement age.
In fact, the most feared part of aging—a spiral into dependence, weakness, and frailty—has a lot to do with biology. Your biology is influenced by your genetics, which you cannot control, and by your lifestyle, which you can control. You can influence how well you age by the way you live now, and you can literally add years, active years, to your life by making good lifestyle choices.
If you make music with others; challenge yourself to learn new instruments, songs, or techniques; and practice and play regularly, you are already increasing your chances of aging well. But, are you paying attention to what you eat and drink?
Enter the idea of nutrition for musicians. Good nutrition is the foundation of a healthy brain and body. Eating the right foods can help keep our minds clear, quick, and sharp and can help fight off disease as we age. Diet affects brain chemistry, also, and it can positively influence your mood and behavior.As we age, our bodies process nutrients less efficiently, which means we need to increase our nutrient intake. Perhaps the most important food group to pay attention to in terms of healthy aging is fresh fruits and vegetables.
The National Cancer Institute recommends a minimum of five fruit-and-vegetable servings a day. The new US Department of Agriculture food pyramid recommends that women older than 50 eat two cups of fruits and vegetables a day, and men older than 50 eat two and a half cups.
It also recommends you vary the kinds of fruits and vegetables you eat to get the best nutritional balance. Some nutritionists call this balance “eating across the spectrum.” In other words, make sure you include a balance of red, green, yellow, orange, and blue fruits and vegetables in your diet.
However, research shows that five servings, or two cups, may actually be a minimum target for older people. It’s now suggested that the more fruit and vegetables you include in a balanced diet, the greater the health benefits. As a recreational music facilitator and personal fitness instructor, I’d recommend older amateur musicians who want to keep playing aim for eight servings of fruit and vegetables a day. It isn’t hard to do! And just think of all the wonderful, healthy recipes you can experiment with. This weekend, why not get down to the farmer’s market and pick up some fresh ingredients, and while that stew, soup, or casserole is cooking, you can steal some time to practice a few songs!