Bette Calman is one of the pioneers of Australian Yoga, jumping to notoriety in the 1950s. Over the years she has had her own TV show, been featured in countless magazines and newspapers, written three books discussing the benefits of yoga and taught the practice for over 40 years. Bette has remained a fixture in the media spotlight over the years and has now become an Internet sensation for remarkable aging and longevity -- still practicing yoga and teaching as a great-grandma in her 80s. Because of our focus at Home Care Assistance on health, wellness and quality of life, Bette has served as an inspiration to all of us -- an example of aging gracefully. As part of our mission to change the way the world ages, we interviewed Bette to better understand her secret to a healthy mind, body and spirit. Here are her answers:
Q: How were you first drawn to the practice of yoga?
A: It was a lot of things -- I didn't know what it was. I first wanted to do it when I was 15 -- Sir Paul Dukes from England came to Sydney and I wanted to try it, but my dad said I had enough on my plate with school, swimming, diving, piano and dancing. Dad said if it is right, it will come back to you. When I was 26 I discovered Michael Volin from Russia, who had a small class in Sydney.
Q: What about yoga has kept you practicing all this time?
A: I always felt good after class -- never sick, no headaches, menstrual problems or aches and pains -- I thought, "This is perfect for me." My husband and I were in the hotel business and I needed yoga to keep me healthy, strong and able to work long hours (7 a.m.-2 a.m. with shift work) in a rather unhealthy environment. It helped with my energy and soothed my tired legs from standing all day.
Q: Did you think you would still be teaching and practicing yoga in your 80s?
A: No, I never thought I would teach, but I thought I would practice -- it has helped me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The things that worry a lot of people don't worry me at all, and I am sure it's because of my yoga practice.
Q: How do you feel about "going viral" as a model for aging well (being an Internet sensation)?
A: I had a TV show for 24 years, a weekly newspaper article for 14 years and a monthly magazine for several years, so I have always been involved in the media industry; however, the Internet was out of my control -- it wasn't my choice, but I felt it may help bring yoga to the forefront of people's minds. If it inspired one person to go to a class, then I considered that I had done the right thing in doing the interviews and taking pictures.
Q: Do you teach your grandchildren yoga?
A: I teach my great-grandson, Andreas, yoga -- he loves it. He has been going to class each week since he was 18 months. My daughter ran a yoga school in Melbourne for 18 years and has been teaching for 24 years. My grandson does yoga to help his flexibility for Australian Rules football.
Q: What do you think is the secret to aging well? Do you think yoga has contributed to your aging so well?
A: The secret to aging is to keep on keeping on. When we stop, that is the issue -- just keep on!! Yes, yoga has contributed because it helps you on all levels -- it's natural for yogis to sit on the floor, whereas older people who don't do yoga can't do that as easily. I feel it's also about moving the body, stretching the body and mind, being open on all levels rather than closing down to only doing what is familiar. I am always open to do something new, go somewhere new, or meet new people.
Q: What advice can you offer baby boomers and younger adults alike about how to age well and live a long and healthy life?
A: Not much because they seem to know it all, but they don't seem to apply it. You can lead a horse to water but you can force it to drink...
Q: Do you think you're helping in changing society's view on aging to a more positive perspective? Have you seen any changes in the way society views aging over the past decades?
A: Yeah, in a roundabout sort of way -- my grandson admits it's terrible that I am more flexible than him. I am not focused on aging so I do not observe it, but living in a retirement village here in Melbourne, I notice too many pills, too many tests, too many things going wrong or looking for the next thing to go wrong. I don't study aging -- I live for today.
Q: If you could only share one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Start the day with water and end it with water.
Q: Our mission is to change the way the world ages. How do you feel you are achieving this mission?
A: We need to look after our own -- live the day good, live a happy day. I never thought about aging until the last few months...
Q: If 2012 Bette could write a letter to 45-year-old Bette, what would she say?
A: Keep on, you will get there. You are on the right path -- do not change. Do more for yourself instead of relying on others.
Q: Do you have a favorite saying? What is it?
A: Keep on keeping on.
Q: What is your favorite "guilty pleasure"?
A: I don't have a guilty pleasure -- I eat what I enjoy and if I overindulge I will go quiet the next day. But I do love the movies, chai and naughty jokes.
Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A: Enjoying what I do, when I do it.
Q: While your lifestyle choices mean you'll likely spend the rest of your years in phenomenal health, if you were to need assistance with daily activities in the future, what would you do?
A: Have to accept it -- enjoy, and life goes on. I am nearly ready to have a guide dog.
Q: Our proprietary Balanced Care Method, based on studies of the long-lived elders in Okinawa, focuses on mind, body and spirit and is the foundation for the care we provide. Do you think this is a strong foundation? What do you think should be the major focus when caring for seniors?
A: This is my foundation too. This is the only foundation, there is no other. Treat them as if they are healthy.
We are honored that our inspiration, Bette Calman, took the time to share her thoughts on yoga, health and quality of life so that we can now pass them along to you. As Bette mentioned, the real secret to aging well is taking what you learn and applying it in some way, shape or form. Hopefully you can take away at least one piece of wisdom from our Q&A with Bette and start changing your life for the better today!
For more information about our exclusive Balanced Care Method approach to care to promote healthy longevity and quality of life, visit BalancedCareMethod.com.
For more by Lily Sarafan, click here.
For more on aging gracefully, click here.
For more on yoga, click here.