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Lifestyle & Travel

#LoveYourAge: How This Woman’s Questions About Aging Led her to be a Pioneer in Positivity

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Barbara Hannah Grufferman has a mantra, and it comes up a couple of times during our phone call: “We can’t control getting older but we can control how we do it,” she says.

For the writer, speaker and positive aging advocate, it’s a statement that has shaped her life, and one that she hopes will inspire others.  

A little over 10 years ago, when G​r​ufferman approached age 50, she started feeling what she now refers to as “the umpies.” “Frumpy, lumpy, bumpy, grumpy,” she laughs, in hindsight. “Grumpy was a big one, especially during menopause.” Her energy was low, her skin felt dry, her clothes weren’t fitting so well. Everything was different, and it caught her off guard. So she took action. “I decided that I just needed to do something. I could either put the proverbial blanket over my head, stay there and just kind of continue on this path, or I could take some action and do something better for myself. And that’s what I decided to do.”

She wanted a plan, so she set out to read whatever she could find on healthy aging and, to her surprise, the resources were limited. “Everything was anti-aging,” she says. “That was it. There was no positive aging, no embrace your age, none of that.” So she decided that she would write the book on positive aging. She’d never been a writer — her previous careers had been in magazine publishing and international conference business — but she thought that by putting a book together, she could find answers to her own questions, and, hopefully, help others along the way. She reached out to experts in beauty, fashion, nutrition, style and other areas, followed their programs and wrote about all of it. The book, called The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More, published in 2010. And with that, everything changed.

By following the advice she learned while writing the book, Grufferman went from her former “umpy”-feeling self to a woman who held her head high, as she heeded the advice of all of the experts. She started walking to get exercise, and then running a bit here and there. When she learned that she had low bone density (her doctor ordered a bone density scan when she broke her arm from taking a spill while walking the dog) she set into action a rigorous strength-training plan. “In partnership with my doctor, I created this plan where I was going to really beef up my fitness by doing serious running and doing pushups and the plank and everything else to keep my bones where they were,” she says. “We couldn’t go backwards, but I didn’t want any further deterioration.”

Through that plan, she became strong. She started running faster and farther. She says that the running became the foundation that really propelled other healthy habits. “I wanted to fuel my body better and so I ate better. And then I wanted to be a stronger runner and keep my bones healthy and so I started to do strength training for my lower body and my upper body so I could be stronger, faster, more efficient. And I slept better because I was active. I looked better, no question — I mean, my body was truly changed as a result of this new lifestyle without trying, just from doing. And my mood got better,” she says. “It was life-changing.”

Today, Grufferman has become a well-regarded voice for positive aging. After her first book came out, Grufferman was approached by the National Osteoporosis Foundation to act as their first “Bone Health Ambassador,” and she now also serves on their board of trustees. She’s written for a number of publications on aging-related topics, including AARP and Huffington Post, and has appeared on a number of TV shows, such as Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, CBS Morning Show and more. Her latest book, Love Your Age: The Small-Step Solution to a Better Longer, Happier Life, recently published, and, like the first one, is designed to serve as a guidebook to positive aging.

And she still walks the walk. When we talked on the phone in late October, Grufferman was preparing to run the New York City Marathon. It was her sixth marathon, and her fifth in New York, and each race time has been faster than the last. She takes the call from her hotel room, after talking earlier that day at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, about bone health.

When she looks back on the path her life has taken, Grufferman is most proud of the fact that she’s inspired others. She says she’ll get private messages from people who say that she helped them find the motivation to start running, or return to running. And she’s especially proud that her positive aging journey has inspired her two daughters, who are 20 and 24, to make their health and fitness a priority. One is even training for her first marathon, in honor of her 21st birthday.

“I feel quite confident that my girls can look at me and say, you know, I think I’d like to be like her when I get to that age,” says Grufferman. “That’s important to me.”

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