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Lessons From a Centenarian: Deborah Szekely’s 6 Secrets to a Long + Vibrant Life

The wellness guru doesn't think about her age—and you shouldn't either

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At 102 Years Old, Deborah Szekely is still the godmother of wellness—and she isn’t going anywhere. This wasn’t just a title bestowed upon her decades ago when she co-founded the renowned Rancho La Puerta resort, it’s a truth she continues to embody with infectious energy and wisdom. Last week, Szekely brought her passion to Organic Spa’s 12th annual Experience Wellness and Travel Media event at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. One of the event’s most anticipated keynote speakers, she led a masterclass appropriately titled, “This is What 100 Looks Like.” Sitting in front of an awe-inspired audience—and looking as fashionable as ever—Szekely shared own wellness journey and how to live a fulfilling life.

Who is Deborah Szekely?

Szekely’s life has been dedicated to helping others achieve vibrant health and longevity. Born in Brooklyn to immigrant parents, she spent five years of her childhood in Tahiti, where she met her then future-husband Edmond Szekely. In 1940, the couple opened Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, one of the first luxury wellness resorts in North America. The “camp” served to test their budding innovations in wellness.

In 1958, Szekely followed up with the Golden Door in San Marcos, California, solidifying her reputation as a pioneer in the wellness movement. Both spas continue to offer guests a transformative experience, including healthful eating, spa treatments and connection. Since then, Szekely has also served as the president of the Inter-American Foundation (1984-1990), founded the New Americans Museum in San Diego, and recently published “100 Lessons from a Grasshopper” in 2022. Today she resides in Southern California and remains actively involved with Rancho La Puerta, where she still works three days a week.

What Deborah Szekely wants women over 50 to know

As it turns out, Szekely’s approach to wellness is refreshingly simple and rooted in common sense. Here are her six secrets to a long and vibrant life. 

1. Age is just a number

“I never thought about age, one way or another,” Szekely declared when someone in the audience asked how she felt when she turned 100 (two birthdays back). “I woke up and I thought wow, I’m a hundred! What am I supposed to do different?” Then, she shared, she couldn’t think of anything she’d do differently, so she just kept on as she had been.

2. Embrace positivity

“The world has tons of problems, and you can’t do anything about them,” Szekely said. “When you worry, you add to the problems. By not worrying, you subtract from the problems.” By focusing on the good and letting go of negativity around things we can’t control, we can cultivate inner peace and well-being.

Related: How to Stop Worrying About Things You Can’t Control: Experts Share Their 6 Best Tricks

3. Friendship is a vital part of our health

mature friend group laughing outside
Kevin Dodge/Getty

Szekely emphasized the importance of nurturing strong social connections. “Friends are key,” she stated, sharing that she now has a bunch of younger friends in their 70s and 80s. She has standing dates with many of them, and they’d never think of going to the opera without calling her! 

She also advises that it’s more about quality than quantity – but it’s no use being too picky! “You can’t expect a perfect friend — you pick the individual who matches your needs, they’re doing things that you like,” she added. Building a supportive network of friends who share your values and zest for life provides emotional support and adds joy to your days.

4. Movement is life

Szekely’s philosophy is clear: “Life is movement, death is not movement —very simple.” She may be using a walker these days (to prevent any more falls; she’s broken her hip a couple of times!) but that doesn’t mean she’s planning to give up her daily walks any time soon: “I’m obliged to walk at least a mile a day. I’m in the park every morning.” She reminds us that small doses of physical activity can make a big difference. Find activities you enjoy, whether it’s walking, dancing, or swimming, and get your body moving.

Also read: Exercise Snacks Are the Secret to Healthy – And You Only Need 1 Minute to Get the Perks!

5. Fuel your body wisely

mature woman eating a bowl of salad
Eleganza/Getty

While Szekely enjoys her occasional treat (coffee ice cream is a favorite!), she emphasizes the importance of nourishing your body with healthy foods. Her daily breakfast of bananas and yogurt is a testament to her commitment to balanced nutrition. “It’s important that you do what’s right and you know what’s healthy and it will be rewarding,” Szekely noted.

6. Nature is your ally

“I don’t think you can have youth without nature,” Szekely proclaimed. “You can’t have health without nature. Nature renews us.” She makes a conscious effort to spend time outdoors, soaking up the outdoors. Whether it’s a walk in the park or a simple moment appreciating the beauty around you, connecting with nature can reduce stress, boost mood and enhance overall well-being.

A final note

Deborah Szekely remains an inspiration to us all. By embracing her secrets, we can truly live to our fullest, no matter our age. So, take a walk in the park, savor a healthy meal with loved ones and let Deborah Szekely’s wisdom be your guide to a life well-lived.

See also: 6 Free + Easy Healthy Aging Tips That’ll Help You Feel Better Than Ever


For more inspirational features, read through these below:

Christina Applegate on Being ‘Raw’ & Honest About Life + Speaking Her Own Truth

Stacy London’s 3 Tips for Embracing Your Personal Style — & Authentic Self — as You Age

‘Touched by an Angel’ and ‘The Baxters’ Star Roma Downey Opens Up About Losing Her Mom & the Blessings of Aging (EXCLUSIVE)

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