“I may be old on the outside, but I am young on the inside.”

Story by Liz Marchi

Helen and Larry Cates, who were tennis partners before they were partners in life, make “health is wealth” a daily pursuit, and a commitment to active living and clean eating gives them the mental and physical assets required for the lives they live.

Helen, looking younger than her 60-something age, has a master’s degree in health, nutrition and exercise science. She has been teaching yoga at the Wave in Whitefish since it opened. Longevity seems to run in the family, as Helen’s mom is 96 and just recently decided to stop driving.

Larry credits Helen with keeping him on the straight and narrow with nutrition and exercise. He spent his career in corporate America in a high-stress, high-demand environment. They lived all over the world while raising their children. Larry was a self-described workaholic who worked long hours with offices in numerous countries. At 55, he retired from corporate life and was determined to make a life change.

The couple moved to Whitefish in 2004. They both ski and have served as ambassadors at the mountain for years. Larry, who turns 70 this year, is always looking for his next challenge. He’s an active angel investor in Frontier Funds 1 and 2, and currently serves as chairman of Fund 2. He spends lots of time mentoring and coaching a variety of businesses and continues an active consultancy.

One of the most important attributes of aging well, in Larry’s mind, is looking forward, and trying new things. For example, they both just began curling, and Helen recently started playing bridge again. They believe in learning new things, meeting new people and traveling to keep themselves happy and healthy. As Larry remembers, his grandmother Nell said, “I may be old on the outside, but I am young on the inside.”

They feel fortunate to be active travelers and are hiking the Grand Canyon this spring. Helen hikes each week with a regular group in Whitefish, and last year she became a Glacier backcountry volunteer ranger, which involved checking permits, photographing needed repairs, counting hikers and bear management within Glacier National Park. She is looking forward to another year working as a volunteer ranger this summer.

Their travels abroad involve biking, hiking, canoeing and other activities. They both share a belief that travel to countries like Madagascar and Bhutan, which they greatly enjoy, give them a deep and abiding gratitude for having been born in America and being free to chart their own course. Both love local life but are global thinkers.

Family is very important to them. They have three grown children and six grandchildren. Two of the children are on the East Coast, but they see them on a regular basis. They have one child and two grandchildren close by. They enjoy their family but cultivate an active and rich life as a couple.

Optimism, enthusiasm and learning are core to their lives. Helen’s advice for being well is: “Walk and do it with purpose (it’s a great load-bearing exercise). Practice yoga — everyone needs the flexibility as we age — and lift weights. We need to keep our bones strong and healthy.”

It’s a joy for me to spend time with people who inspire active living and are engaged every day in doing and giving. As we age, we continue to be greatly influenced by the people we choose to spend our time with. Pick wisely.

Liz is fascinated by the various approaches to aging — from denial, to plastic surgery, to running marathons, to depression. Given our current demographics, Liz thinks there is a lot to explore, celebrate and learn from those living and aging in the Flathead Valley. Contact her at liz@lizmarchi.com.