Most 93-year-olds would be shocked if a stranger asked them to do push-ups after a tiresome flight but Charles Eugster isn’t like most nonagenarians.
My old age has been a joy. I don’t understand this anti-ageing mentality
Putting his luggage on the floor and removing his smart blue sports jacket, the silver-haired bodybuilder happily performed the exercises on the floor of his hotel lobby.
“How many do you want me to do,” he asked cheerily, as bemused guests looked on.
Dr Eugster arrived in Malta yesterday to speak at the European Association of Homes and Services for the Ageing (EAHSA) conference, which will be held today and tomorrow at Le Meridien, St Julians, hosted by Caremalta Ltd.
Known as “the world’s fittest nonagenarian”, Dr Eugster is an appropriate choice of speaker in what is officially the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations.
“My old age has been a joy. I don’t understand this anti-ageing mentality,” Dr Eugster said.
Swiss by nationality, Dr Eugster went to school in England and rowed in his youth but he didn’t take up the sport again until the age of 60 when he discovered veterans’ competitions.
Having worked as a dentist until he was 75 and published his own dentistry newsletter until he was 82, Dr Eugster’s prescription for a long life is simple: work, healthy eating and exercise.
“Work is one of the most wonderful things you can do. It makes you feel that you are contributing to society. Retirement is devastating.”
In fact, the only period Dr Eugster did not work in his adult life was between the ages of 82 and 90 and he described being unemployed as “most unpleasant”.
Dr Eugster’s second wife died aged 85 and this made him take stock. He was rowing six times a week but missed his old body. So, at the age of 87 he took up bodybuilding to counter muscle loss. “I’ve always been a little vain,” he joked.
Bodybuilding for over-80s was uncharted territory but with the help of his personal trainer, Sylvia Gattiker, he experienced dramatically successful results and became confident enough to enter competitions.
He is the Strenflex world champion on the 80+ category and has also won over 100 rowing events, including 30 Masters Golds, since he started competing again 32 years ago.
Evidence of his amazing physical achievements came at the 2010 Strenflex World Championships when he scored the highest number of points ever. His winning performance featured 57 dips, 61 chin-ups, 50 push-ups and 48 abdominal crunches, each in 45 seconds.
Dr Eugster got annoyed at the suggestion that elderly people feel their best years are behind them.
“Their best years are ahead of them! Anyone, in my opinion, can change their bodies and their lives if they are determined.”
He recommended that any elderly person who has been inactive for a long time first gets assessed by a doctor before starting strenuous exercise.
“But ill-health or disability should not prevent people from training altogether. Exercise is not only used for prevention, it is also a recognised treatment.”
Dr Eugster’s two years of employment promoting a Swiss chain of fitness centres ended aged 92, so now he travels the world delivering his active ageing message.
“I want to change the world while I’m still here. We need to prevent impending disaster by encouraging people be more active, particularly as they get older.”
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