Once seated across from the absolute legend IRL, my own internalized ageism tempts me to pry into her looks given that Stewart appears to be decades younger than she is—have you seen her smokeshow selfies!?—and I want to know her secret(s) so I, too, can remain frozen in time. But I decide instead to be the change I want to see—after all, wanting to look younger than you are is not emotionally healthy—and refrain from superficialities. Instead, I turn to a question of substance, which is how she’s managing to stay so healthy into her eighties.
This, Stewart responds, is the most significant challenge of aging, but her advice around it is surprisingly simple. It also, refreshingly, doesn’t involve any action items that can only be executed by billionaires, e.g. “young blood” transfusions.
Instead, Stewart says: You simply need to listen to your body. “If there’s a problem, you have to take care of it. People who ignore problems die,” she says bluntly. Stewart tells me that for example, she tore her Achilles heel two years ago and was forced to be inactive for quite some time in order to recover which, as you might imagine, was an unnatural prescription for the perpetually busy bee. “It was horrifying to me, but if you do everything they tell you to do, hopefully you’ll get better,” Stewart says.
Instead, Stewart says: You simply need to listen to your body. “If there’s a problem, you have to take care of it. People who ignore problems die,” she says bluntly.
As this advice implies, Stewart is a believer in utilizing all available tools when it comes to healthcare. “I don’t currently take any medicine, but I absolutely believe in medicine and science.” (No medicine, at 81? I’m definitely listening…) In fact, Stewart’s been a spokesperson for the Pfizer vaccine. As a fellow science-enthusiast—and absolute neurotic when it comes to my health—I’m relieved to hear these easy-to-follow recommendations.
Stewart also believes that regular activity, when incorporated as a natural part of your lifestyle, can dramatically increase your health span. “Drive your tractor, you know?,” she says. Stewart practices what she preaches, too. She tends to her own gardens, plows her own snow, and is generally hands on with the upkeep on her 156-acre property. This is all in addition to her busy work life, which includes overseeing The Bedford restaurant, appearing on three Roku TV shows, hosting a podcast, and about a billion other ventures. “And I just went to Madagascar with my family,” Stewart says. “We hiked for miles and miles.”
Stewart and I are then distracted by talk of Madagascar’s lemurs for several minutes, but eventually I’m able to return the conversation back to the topic at hand. I ask her if ageism ever gets to her, like it does me, and she doesn’t even hesitate before replying in the negative. “I’ve ignored the age thing my whole life,” Stewart says. “I never think about how old I am, because it’s not about that. It’s about who you are.”
“I’ve ignored the age thing my whole life,” Stewart says. “I never think about how old I am, because it’s not about that. It’s about who you are.”
To me, this feels like it could be the ultimate secret to healthy aging, because internalized ageism, in my experience, can really hold you back. When I confide in Stewart that I’ve been struggling with the feeling I’m too old to achieve my dreams, she is quick to reassure me that I’m sabotaging myself with that line of thinking.
“I didn’t write my first book until I was in my 40s, and I founded my company when I was 50,” Stewart says. “I’m a late bloomer, and you can be a late bloomer, too. It’s a good thing to be.”
After I wipe away my tears and finish begging her to adopt me—kidding, kind of—I ask Stewart if she has any final advice around aging before her PR team cuts us off. I’m expecting something deep and philosophical, but what I get in response instead is so delightfully “Martha” that it feels like the perfect way to end our conversation. “Don’t wear anything that makes you look stupid,” she says. As a true Martha stan, I can’t help but wonder… does this count?