How does one live to be 95 and in good shape mentally and physically?  Common wisdom tells us to eat well, exercise, stay positive, be part of a community, etc.  Of course, it also helps to have good genes.

In the case of Deborah Szekely, who will be 95 on May 3rd, all of the above statements are true. Her whole life has been about healthy living and community. In 1940, at the age of 18, Deborah, and her late husband, Edmond Szekely , founded Rancho La Puerta across the border from San Diego in Tecate, Mexico. Deborah already had healthy eating habits in place as her mother had been the vice president of the Vegetarian Society in New York. After she married the professor, they continued following a healthy lifestyle, and opening Rancho la Puerta was their mutual dream of sharing that healthy lifestyle with others.

Today the ranch is a world renowned spa that is known for its delicious food, plethora of mind and body classes, and beautiful surroundings that inspire guests to walk everywhere. Although she no longer lives at the ranch, Szekely still goes there once a week and talks about her life and lifestyle, and why she has thrived for so long.

She understands the importance of eating well, following a fresh and simple diet, mostly plant based and organic. She walks and does daily yoga and Pilate classes. She has a young at heart philosophy and believes that life after 60 is the beginning of emancipation, freedom, opportunity and choice.

She also believes in giving back and is very philanthropic, donating to various charities, etc. She was one of the sponsors of “Into the Beautiful North”, a play at the San Diego Repertory Theater. She also founded “The New Americans Museum” in Liberty Station, a museum that celebrates immigrants and their contributions.

Finally, at one of her weekly lectures, a guest at Rancho La Puerta asked her, “What are the three most important things in life that you have learned?” She answered the following.

“There are five.”

“First: supportive friends and community.”

“Second: a pleasant, agreeable, and protected environment.”

“Third: organic, honest food, mostly plants.”

“Fourth: oxygen for the brain, body and spirit. This can be summed up in two words: KEEP MOVING!”

“And finally, none of the first four are valuable without faith and peace of mind.”

Indeed, wise words to heed from someone who has lived 95 incredible years, and is still going strong.


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Miriam [Mimi] Pollack was born in Chicago, but moved to Mexico City when she was five years old. She lived and worked in Mexico for over 20 years. She currently resides in San Diego and worked as an ESL instructor at Grossmont College and San Diego Community College Continuing Education until June 2018. She writes for various local publications.