Deborah Szekely, Founder of the Mind/Body/Fitness Movement, Turns 90

The founder of the Golden Door spa talks staying active and young at age 90

by Lesley Kennedy • Reporter
deborah szekely image
Deborah Szekely isn't letting a little thing like turning 90 slow her down.
Photograph: Courtesy Rancho La Puerta

MORE: What is your favorite indulgence at the ranch?
DS: Before my weekly lecture I love to have my nails and hair done. Occasionally I have a massage, if there's time. But I don’t do all the other stuff . . . I don’t have time. I’d love to, but time is the issue.

MORE: You've been involved in so many other endeavors, too—politics; being the founding co-president of the U.S.–Mexico Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange; promoting health and nutrition programs for children. What pushes you to stay so active?
DS: I see so much that needs to be done. I like to shift things from a “Why don’t they?” to a “Why don’t we, why don’t I?” point of view. I’m frustrated, and I care a lot. This whole problem with our nation’s citizens’ obesity, for example, drives me nuts. I’ve always been this way. I still am. Being 90 doesn’t change things. I’m a compulsive do-gooder.

MORE: What are some of the great lessons you've learned in your long and storied life?
DS: First, the usual: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Keep your eye on the ball. Those kinds of slogans hold true. Stay focused and don’t waste time being upset, worrying what others think about you and your ideas. I truly believe that what I’m doing is important no matter what others think. At some point you have to trust your own judgment. You will be a spectacular success or a spectacular failure, but you will have done it. No one thought the Golden Door was a good idea, and my insistence on a Japanese inn motif was proof that I was insane. I go by my gut and my angels.

MORE: What advice do you have for other women on staying active and young?
DS: Never stop planning ahead and learning. I wake up at night and read to learn, and this gives me the same pleasure and joy that I might get from a great novel. There’s so much knowledge out there. If people stop learning, growth reverses itself and becomes decline.

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