Good for what ages you

Aging is celebrated in the arid desert region in California called Coachella Valley, where the population believes it’s the keeper of the fountain of youth. It is not uncommon to see a 70-ish bag boy packing groceries at a supermarket or a 72-year old dancer doing splits and cartwheels in a Las Vegas-styled stage show. Many 90-year-olds here capably take care of themselves and lead independent lives. In fact, toasting a three-digit birthday is not all that uncommon in either glitzy Palm Springs or in Desert Hot Springs, just 15 miles away.

There are those who swear the hot, bubbling water that spills out onto the California desert is every bit as magical as the stuff in the pool where Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy and Don Ameche splashed about in the movie Cocoon. In case you’ve forgotten, that aging trio of actors emerged from their swim energized with all the vim and vigour of 20-year-olds.

“Older people do thrive here,” says Dr. Paul Ross, who has been practising in Desert Hot Springs for 23 years. “It’s a combination of the minerals in the water, the non-polluted air and the dry climate that helps their circulation and eases pains in their joints and muscles. have 80-year-olds who look and act as if they were 60.”

Ross admits the curative power of the water has not been scientifically proven but adds, “Neither has it in [Germany’s spa city] Baden Baden.” Unlike some thermal baths around the world that have a distinct odour or a muddy appearance, the water here is crystal clear with a silky texture. It contains such health-giving minerals as calcium, magnesium, silica, sodium and a slew of others. The drinking water, pure enough to be piped untreated from the wells directly to users, regularly takes top prizes in an international water tasting competition.

It’s not only the water and 350 days a year of sunshine that lures snowbirds here. Diversions include canyon hiking and desert safaris, as well as shopping at elegant boutiques, discount malls and farmers markets.

Lively Palm Springs, once a hideaway for Hollywood stars such as the late Bob Hope, who died there at the age of 100, is jammed with high-end restaurants, hotels, boutiques, museums, galleries, libraries, movies, malls, theatres, health clubs and spas. The lavishly staged Fabulous Palm Spring Follies is a Las Vegas clone except that the cast and stars are 55 to 81 years old.

Desert Hot Springs lacks most of the glamour of its more popular neighbour, Palm Springs, but offers restful hideaways and affordable accommodations in the majority of hotels, motels and RV camps. Visitors staying in either of these towns use the same recreational facilities in the Coachella Valley, including 110 golf courses and 600 tennis courts. Swimming pools are everywhere.

Visitors can get along without a car by using the excellent public transportation system. Keeping a schedule on hand helps to avoid long waits.

Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism. 760-778-8415; 
Palm Springs Spa Resort Casino, 100 North Indian Canyon. 1-880-999-1995;
Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce. 760-329-6403;
Desert Hot Springs Agua Caliente Hotel, 14500 Palm Drive. 760-329-4481