Alice Ladouceur, 77, is a mover and a shaker: a mover because she travels the world, and a shaker as she stays active. "I think it's good to always have a goal in mind," says the mother of five, grandmother of 15 and great-grandmother of three. For the former elementary school teacher, who lives in Hawkesbury, Ont. ("the perfect place to live," says Alice, because it's halfway between Ottawa and Montreal), that could mean a trip to Europe, a day trip with one of her seven siblings or her monthly lunch date with a group of friends from her teacher's college days some 60 years ago.
Alice, a widow who lives solo in her bungalow, never seems to slow down: She spends three months each winter in Florida, and this past spring she took not one but two trips to Europe: One to Amsterdam for 10 days to see the tulips with one of her daughters, and the other to London for three days, followed by a cruise on the Baltic, with another daughter. She loves cruises, and has taken six of them so far. "I find them easier than group travel by bus," she says. "With a bus, you need to keep packing and unpacking when you go place to place. It can be a hassle, even though I've learned to travel as lightly as possible most of the time. But on a cruise, your things are in your room for the whole time." Typically, she goes with a family member or friends, as "it's always more fun that way."
Family is a major focus in Alice's life. In fact, in recent years she worked on her family tree, and when she found she really enjoyed it, she started exploring her late husband's ancestry. "I got interested in genealogy, and I worked on his family tree," Alice explains. "Then, I sent out my findings to all of my husband's extended family. They were so pleased to have that." This led to a regular correspondence between members of the large family group and Alice: they keep her informed of births and other events, and Alice collects all of this information to compile and email out to the group once or twice a year. "It keeps everyone up to date, and they tell me that they like getting news of the family this way."
Alice can keep up with all of these activities thanks to being healthy. So, what's her secret? "I watch what I eat by making sure to include lots of fruits and vegetables, which is so easy in the summer months, and I limit my portion sizes." However, Alice adds with a laugh, "I do splurge on dessert once in a while." Besides getting out for daily walks, she regularly goes to a gym to use the stationary bike, treadmill and light weights. "There's also a one-hour exercise class twice a week at the seniors' club. We work on balance, muscle-building and flexibility." On top of it all, Alice does a lot of gardening—but has learned to pace herself. "These days I'll spend perhaps half hour at a time working on it, then go inside to read a chapter of my book. When I'm feeling energized again, I'll go back out to the garden."
Alice's advice to anyone about how to live life to the fullest starts with step one: Have a goal for the day—whether it's getting out in the garden, seeing a friend for lunch or packing for a trip. She says that she has some friends who stay in their pyjamas all morning. "They don't feel so good about themselves. But if you have a plan for the day, when you wake up each morning you will want to get up and get dressed, since you have something to look forward to. That's important; you'll feel great, and ready to achieve your goal."
One of Alice's goals for this summer is to take a day trip with her younger brother to Ausable Chasm just over the U.S. border in Plattsburgh. "Our uncle used to talk about that place and we have never been there, so I said to my brother, 'We're going!' My siblings and I love our escapades."
To Alice, aging well is making sure you have friends and family to talk to and to see. It's how she embraces her age. "It's funny; I don't feel like an older person, except for the usual aches and pains." She adds with a laugh: "I look in the mirror and I think, 'Not too bad yet.'"
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