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La Jollan produces ‘Art of Aging Well’ documentary to promote ‘movement’ for seniors

La Jolla resident Jim Owens, with his wife, Stanya
La Jolla resident Jim Owens, with his wife, Stanya, says exercise, or “movement,” is “as much mental as it is physical, especially for older people.”
(Courtesy)

Recent La Jolla transplant Jim Owens doesn’t like the word “exercise” — he prefers the word “movement.” And he recently wrote a book about movement for senior citizens that details how it changed his life after he turned 70. He also produced a documentary about movement that is slated to air on PBS in coming weeks.

The short film, “The Art of Aging Well,” is online now at pbs.org/video/art-of-aging-well-sljdvt.

“I called the documentary ‘The Art of Aging Well’ because it really is an art, not a science. If it was a science, there would be a formula that always worked,” said Owens, 80. “We have to find what works for each person. Everyone knows they should exercise and eat cleaner. So why don’t they? It’s as much mental as it is physical, especially for older people.”

"The Art of Aging Well" has been released on the PBS website and will air in San Diego on a date to be determined.
“The Art of Aging Well” has been released on the PBS website and will air in San Diego on a date to be determined.
(Courtesy)

The 27-minute documentary features insight from experts, personal stories and Owens’ own journey.

“I started this physical transformation when I turned 70 to get rid of my aches and pain,” he said. “It took five years, then I was pain-free. None. Nada. … When I started, I couldn’t walk three blocks. I decided to do some physical activity for 30 days and it was amazing. I started with 10 minutes, and at the end of the 30 days, I was walking more, feeling better and looking better.”

“When I turned 75, I set the goal to turn 80 years young,” Owens added. “To me, that meant my wellness age would be younger than my actual age. By golly, I went through a battery of tests before my birthday on Oct. 20 and my doctor said [that] from a wellness point of view, I am a minimum of 10 years younger. A lot of it was mind-set. The physical part is not nearly as hard as you think. It’s the mental part.”

Now he exercises for about an hour five or six days a week.

“It doesn’t matter what you do, just move your body,” he said. “Forget the gym membership. Find an activity you enjoy, maybe walk with a friend or try yoga, go for a swim or a bike ride. Just so long as it’s consistent.”

The documentary’s release is timely, given the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“Look at the profile of people that get and are impacted the most by the virus,” Owens said. “They are older and have one or more underlying health conditions — diabetes, heart issues, etc. — that knocks the immune system out of kilter.”

Owens said many of the underlying conditions that can exacerbate the symptoms of COVID-19 can be mitigated through healthy diet and exercise. “That means if they are getting up in age, it is that much more important that they protect themselves by getting healthy,” he said.

Owens and his wife, Stanya, moved to La Jolla two months ago from Texas to be closer to their children, and they are “still unpacking boxes,” he joked.

"The Art of Aging Well" producer Jim Owens goes through his fitness routine.
(Courtesy)

“This is a great place,” Owens said. “We vacationed here over many years. I can’t think of any place prettier. We feel so lucky to be here, we pinch ourselves. Every day the sun comes up, we go for walks. We’re not swimmers — I’m a terrible swimmer — but we love to walk along the beach.”

He also advocates walking as a way to start to exer ... that is, engage in movement.

“Nothing beats walking,” Owens said. “It’s a small step and this starts the small stuff. Maybe it’s just not sitting as much, maybe it’s cutting back on salt and sugar. I really believe, and my hope is we can spread this message, get off the couch and move. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

He said he is already working on “the second segment” of the documentary and hopes to continue the series.

“I see this as my contribution to the world,” Owens said. ◆