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Story Highlights

  • Visper Blackwood did not always subscribe to a healthy lifestyle, simply because she did not have as much information about the benefits of healthy living when she was younger.
  • Miss Blackwood rues not having had that knowledge, as she is convinced that her current journey with diabetes may not have been her reality if she knew the importance of understanding the risk factors and managing her diet, weight and the amount of exercise she did.
  • Miss Blackwood was a guest of the Ministry of Health at a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’, to discuss Caribbean Wellness Day, to be observed on September 12.

Visper Blackwood did not always subscribe to a healthy lifestyle, simply because she did not have as much information about the benefits of healthy living when she was younger.

She is happy however, that she had an affinity for exercise from a tender age and eventually caught the vision of healthy living while still a young woman, rendering the octogenarian able to claim the distinction of being in better health and more active than many people half her age.

Miss Blackwood rues not having had that knowledge, as she is convinced that her current journey with diabetes may not have been her reality if she knew the importance of understanding the risk factors and managing her diet, weight and the amount of exercise she did.

“I wish I had known more about health when I was younger, but it is never too late to begin taking care of yourself,” she advises.

Miss Blackwood was a guest of the Ministry of Health at a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’, to discuss Caribbean Wellness Day, to be observed on September 12. She also represented the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC), to talk about her own journey to healthy ageing.

“We have a group at the NCSC and we call ourselves the ‘recycled teenagers’. We have been doing this since 2006. I am happy to be involved at the Council and it is among the things that keep me going,” she says.

“At the Council we do so many different activities, especially exercise. We go there once a week, exercise, dance, go to special events and we enjoy it. We also have embroidery classes and other activities to keep us occupied. We thank God for the opportunity to be a part of this organization,” she adds.

The sprightly senior citizen, who celebrates her 85th birthday in November, keeps fit with a diet of exercise and healthy eating and catches up on her exercise just about anywhere she can.

“If I do not go out on my daily walk, I sit in bed and do twists and leg lifts. I also do them while watching television sometimes. I have found that my body is much more flexible for doing them,” she notes.

Miss Blackwood, who exercises every day from as early as 5:30 a.m., says she was never a fat person, but “I have lost some weight since discovering that I have diabetes. I feel so good. When I tell people my age, they don’t believe me,” she adds.

The senior citizen says exercise and eating healthy have kept her in relatively good health for eight and a half decades.

“I started exercising as a teenager. I did a lot of swimming, walking and riding bicycles. Those were my main sources of exercise,” she explains.

Her diet includes natural foods, such as peas and beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts and fruits. She singles out callaloo, sweet potato, banana and plantain as some of her favourite foods, adding that she has found creative ways of preparing her food. She enjoys making different kinds of salads and advises that there is no need to use oil to prepare many of the foods that are traditionally fried.

Miss Blackwood has also eliminated meat, salt and sugar from her diet and uses honey as a sweetener, if necessary. She also recommends drinking lots of water, especially during the summer months, as older people get dehydrated quickly.

She has influenced friends to join her on the healthy lifestyle path and she reports that those who have done so all admit to feeling better.

Miss Blackwood has some nuggets of wisdom for fellow senior citizens who may not be living their best lives. “To keep well, love God first and love yourself. If you love yourself, you won’t put too much garbage in your body. You will eat right, do your deep breathing and exercise,” she says.

“I try to take care of myself. Most of my family are abroad and they want me to come and I tell them at my age I am not leaving Jamaica. I love Jamaica. I want to die here and be buried here. I feel free to do what I need to do, I participate in my group activity, I still drive and I am happy here,” she says.

The Ministry of Health has partnered with the NCSC to celebrate Caribbean Wellness Day  under the theme: ‘Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy Ageing’.