Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Getting Older, Staying Younger – From Miguel to Rancho La Puerta

April 10th, 2018
Terminal 5, NYC & Baja California, Mexico

Ever since I moved to Manhattan my body has been rebelling. Last month it was shingles on my forehead (very sexy). The month before that my toe was misbehaving. And now it’s my back’s turn. So I went to CVS to buy a therma-wrap. Heat is good, my physical therapist told me.

“If 55 and over,” the label reads, “do not put directly against the skin.”

I toss caution to the wind and put the heat pad directly onto my 55+ back. If you don’t hear from me in a month, call my super.

Stretch and I like a musician called Miguel, a bit Marvin Gaye mixed with Prince. So, like normal people we buy tickets to go see him perform. My kids react like we are taking a gap year back packing around South America.

Julia, did you know Mommy and Stretch are going to a Miguel concert and their tickets are in the mosh pit so they can dance…

Julia: Hahahahahahaha


They’re gonna freak out.

Ignore. That’s my new mantra. Not just my kids but the Miguel security guard. Everyone in front of us in the line was flashing their IDs. I didn’t think it was so hilarious that I was too.

M’am, you can put that way,” chuckled the guard.

Clearly, he had not glanced down to see my age-defying, hip ensemble – black leather trousers, Duro black and yellow top and black sneakers (no socks).

I am just not so sure about this ageing thing. It sneaks up on me when I am innocently just going about my business. When did people start calling me M’am?  Or CVS get so mean? “All Levels Yoga” sounds pretty tame, doesn’t it? It is so NOT, all levels or tame. If it were, I wouldn’t have stopped mid-class, mid-pose (along with not-so-bendy Stretch) to assume Resting Buddha pose. Meanwhile, the remainder of the class blissfully contorted themselves into positions that frankly, looked unsafe and a bit show-off-y.

The above is a roundabout way of explaining why I fell in love with Rancho la Puerta (RLP), a health spa in Baja California, Mexico that made me feel remarkably more youthful after just a week. I found my people. First night I went to a talk on how diet can prevent dementia. The next day it was time to get down and dirty with some Zumba Funk. No one laughed at me, which is not to say I didn’t laugh a lot throughout the week.

Manuel, the beloved Puerto Rican fitness instructor, gave it to us straight:

Listen my friends at this age you are never going to have a six pack. Just get over it. Train for function. Train for health. Not ego.

Manuel with my friends Ann and Nancy below.

Touted as a “camp for adults” RLP is anything but fancy. To be honest, I was slightly dreading going. The rooms are basic with no wi-fi, internet, or TV and only the patchiest of cell service.

Around the ranch mobile phone calls and internet are only allowed in certain designated lounges. Alcohol isn’t exactly forbidden, but it might as well be. My friend Nancy, a regular along with her sister Ann and friend Andrea, told me what she really loves are the 7am hikes. I’m a creature comfort gal. None of this was singing comfort to my well-tuned ears.

But I liked the idea of a girls’ trip and exiting New York in February for Tecate, Mexico did sound appealing.

What I re-learned at RLP is how much fun camp is. By forcing people to disconnect, you actually reconnect to yourself and everybody else at the ranch as no one is buried in their devices.  I met lots of interesting people, loved the boulder-filled hikes at dawn on Mt Kuchumaa which borders the 4,000-acre ranch,

and got pleasantly lost on the ranch’s myriad of meandering garden-filled paths. I Hula-Hooped, Trampolined, and  did some sound-healing. Below are Mark and Denise L of Paradise (yes, that is their name), their company The Resonance Code.

I fed a few hens.

I even played Bingo. I almost won the Biggest Loser prize, but narrowly lost that. That takes real talent.  Every night I’d read a few pages of my book (no scanning Instagram option) until I fell into a deep, contented sleep.

Founded in 1940 by Deborah Szekely and her late husband,

RLP’s essence has not changed in 78 years. Mind, body, spirit all get a reboot here. There is so much to do that I wasn’t bored for a nanosecond, and the healthy food tasted too good to be healthy. You can go back for seconds, even thirds.

I try to give you so much to do that you want to come back. I want to offer something for every person, said Barry Shingle, director of guest relations and programming. Whoever you are, you’re going to find something to do.”

Shingle, who moved to the ranch from Seattle with a degree in Journalism 18 years ago, is clearly very fond of Deborah, and hosts weekly Bingo night with comic flair.

While I exercised in the mornings, I spent many an afternoon researching the slew of fab spa offerings. There is always a talk after dinner. My personal favorite is the weekly Q&A with Deborah, who turns 96 in May.

Deborah is a force; she works out five times a week, keeps a treadmill in her bathroom, is actively engaged in the ranch and civic projects in San Diego and watches her diet – no meat, chicken or cheese. Here are a few of her pearls:

Q: What keeps you so healthy?

A: Friends are very important. Loneliness is a pernicious disease. And you have to decide not to be lonely not when you’re 60 or 70, but when you’re 40 or 50. It’s by doing favors. My mother had a thing about friends. “You cannot give with a closed hand’. The act of giving is the act of receiving.

Q: How do you stay so mentally sharp?

A: Curiosity. I’m really interested in a lot of things. I read a lot. I want to know. There’s so much to learn in life, and I never get bored.

Q: What else would you attribute to living so long?

A: I never thought about living so long. I live in the moment. This morning we had hail. I really enjoyed getting out into the hail. It’s sort of like having an ice cream cone… I don’t fret about the past.

Q: What would you like us all to leave with?

A: I’d really like to see all of you being focused on your own community, on your own people, share what you learn here to help others.

April, 2018