Meet a Vital Boomer: Edward James Olmos

AnnMarie Garcia and Edward James Olmos

The Vital Aging Conference provided valuable resources for Boomers and Seniors, and brought a visitor to inspire us.

Actor Edward James Olmos is a vitally aging Boomer, so I enjoyed his inspiring keynote at "Vital Aging Conference: Caring for Yourself and Others" held in San Diego in 2007. The event featured information on important health concerns for older adults and family caregivers on topics, such as diabetes, nutrition, fitness, legal issues, and stress management.

Up close and personal

As a Boomer myself, I remember the first Battlestar Galactica TV show from the 70s. Much to my surprise (only because I don't watch the sci-fi channel much), I am now a big fan of the new Battlestar Galactica series, starring among others the patriarchal presence of Edward James Olmos as Admiral Adama. So I was elated to have the opportunity to meet and speak with him at the Vital Aging Conference.

While most people are familiar with his stage and screen work, including Stand and Deliver, Selena (another favorite of mine), American Me, Miami Vice, and Battlestar Galactica, fewer know of his passion for causes. Diabetes was the cause that brought him to the Vital Aging show; he also gives motivational speeches at Indian reservations, prisons, high schools, and colleges all over the country. He tells people of all ages to love themselves and live healthy, and inspires kids to "Study hard!"

As the national spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, (he's also United States Good Will Ambassador for UNICEF) he spoke passionately about how the disease has affected his own family. "Every single male in my family, including my father has died from this disease [diabetes]. I am the first male of my family, of all my cousins who doesn't have it."

He went on to say, "The only reason I don't have diabetes is because I have not activated it ... I don't want to activate it. Therefore what do I do? 3,000 situps and run five miles every day, not six days a week, not five or four. We can actually do something to prevent it from happening to us and that's what I do ... exercise is the key, the second most important thing is your diet. I want to be 100 ... I'd like to be 129."

Edward James Olmos at 60 is one Boomer who's a champion for living life to its fullest, and while he says he retired years ago, you'd never know it by his busy schedule. He told me "Now I only do things I love ... I'll never really retire." Two projects he's most proud of are American Me -- a story that condemns Mexican gang prison and street violence, and Battlestar Galactica -- the sci-fi classic in the making. He said "I never watched Miami Vice, but I watch Battlestar Galactica." He loves being a part of this show and is gratified that fans love it, too.

When I asked him about his sandwich generation status, Edward James Olmos said with a smile, "Yes, I have parents, kids, and grandkids ... so far." He spoke of the inspiration his mother has always been to him growing up. "I'm really grateful for the mother that I have, she's really strong, and right now at 81, she's in Vegas ... she drove herself in a Prius that I bought her!"

I asked Edward James Olmos if he had a San Diego connection. His face lit up as he said, "I love San Diego, I get here as often as I can. I'd love to live here ... it's a great city." He has spoken at events in San Diego "many, many times."

Living life to the fullest

Edward James Olmos has an enthusiasm and reverence for life that was acutely evident in the telling of his family's health struggles with diabetes. He spoke about the importance of "self esteem, self worth, and self respect" in our lives. "It's the only thing that will keep us alive. Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease [are] things we can combat if our self esteem, self worth, and self respect is at the highest level, so we don't eat the wrong things, so that we do the workouts we're supposed to do -- so we can be all we're supposed to be."