Dr. David Suzuki has been hosting The Nature of Things for 40 seasons. In TV terms, that’s forever. To put it in perspective, it’s ten years longer than The Simpsons!
He’d like to hand the series off to younger hands, but, as he told me the other day on the phone from his home in British Columbia, the public network won’t let him.
“They’re always blackmailing me by saying, ‘If you leave the show we may have to cancel the series. It’s highly tied to you as a presenter.'”
Suzuki would like to keep the show going — overall, it is in its 59th year on CBC –and keep it in the family. Two of his daughters, Severn Cullis-Suzuki, an environmental activist, and Sarika Cullis-Suzuki, a marine biologist, have hosted documentaries featured on The Nature of Things.
Besides, he’s 83. He’d rather be building tree houses for one of his six grandchildren than flying across Canada chasing stories.
To drive the point home, this Friday he hosts “Aging Well Suzuki Style,” a personal look at the challenges of moving into one’s senior years.
We learn on the special that the average life expectancy in Canada for men is 80 and for women is 84. It’s not so much that he wants to live longer, says Suzuki. He bluntly calls conjecture that the first person to live to reach 150 has already been born, “Bullshit.”
The average age lifespan in the United States, he points out, has dropped in recent years, mainly due to the misuse of the deadly pain medication Fentanyl. Living to 150, he says, “is way beyond the current life span of our species. The only way you can have a hope of doing that would be by genetic engineering.”
Suzuki wants to live better, not longer, by extending his health span. By participating in various tests and speaking with experts at various clinics and hospitals across Canada, he explores whether his good health as an octogenarian is a product of living well or genetics. He travels to Victoria, Montreal, Toronto, Waterloo, Ont., and England in search of answers, and is tested for balance, cognitive skills, vision, hearing and even driving.
One of the things he discovers is this: brushing your teeth and flossing properly and regularly may help to stave off the onset of cognitive decline. Cavities, plaque, inflammation, it turns out, don’t just effect your gums or teeth.
“The microorganisms in our bodies are essentials to us and we need a diverse flora in our guts in order to to be fully healthy,” says Suzuki. “It’s a brand new area we never realized and it’s fascinating and it’s heartening to see so much research in this area right across Canada.”
Suzuki, who rides a bicycle as often as he can, was also cheered to discover that there’s a correlation between bike riding and sharper immune systems. For most of us, our immune systems start to decline in our twenties. Not so for avid cyclists, who are shown in the special to maintain healthy immune systems well into their senior years.
Suzuki cites the dreaded Coronavirus as as one reason we also should keep moving and work on our immunity systems. As he says, “Why are we all not out there doing something?”
As for how much of his spry self he owes to good genes, Suzuki gives his standard answer to that question: “I chose my parents well.”
Aging Well Suzuki Style premieres this Friday, February 28 on The Nature of Things and will also be available that date on the CBC Gem streaming service.