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Barbara Bowman’s Tips for Living to 90

The educator, nonagenarian, and dessert lover shares her daily routine.

Barbara Bowman
Bowman with her goldendoodle, Honey. Photo: Lisa Predko

Bowman, who turned 90 in October, cofounded the Erikson Institute in 1965 and remains on the faculty to this day. Like her daughter, former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Bowman is also politically influential — in November, she was named cochair of Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker’s transition team. Here’s how the Hyde Park resident remains healthy and productive.

Eating plan

“I’m not as hungry as I used to be. I have to be careful to eat enough so I don’t lose weight. For breakfast it’s a bowl of Kashi with skim milk, or one hard-boiled or scrambled egg. For lunch it’s leftovers, or occasionally I splurge and get a hamburger. Then I have a proper dinner, such as a lamb chop with potatoes from my garden, broccoli, and lettuce and homegrown tomatoes with a little olive oil.”

Sweet tooth

“I almost never skip dessert. I like it all — cake, pie, Toll House cookies. My favorite is vanilla ice cream.”

Sunday supper

“On Sundays I have 14 to 25 people over for dinner — cousins and nephews and close friends. I’ve done it for 50 years. Last week it was coq au vin. The kids clean up afterward. People always say, ‘You do this every Sunday?’ I say, ‘That’s what keeps me young.’ ”

Everyday cardio

“My parking lot is three blocks from the office, so I walk that every day. I live in a two-story house, and I go to the laundry room in the basement and back up into the attic. I do the stairs three or four times a day.”

Green workout

“I have a huge garden, and I do everything but cut the grass and shovel the snow. I bend, dig, clear weeds, and lift, though I do have a guy who’s almost as old as I am who helps me carry things that are too heavy. I grow a lot of vegetables — tomatoes, string beans, cucumbers, eggplant, and potatoes.”

Pain management

“I drink ginger tea when I’m achy. I’ll make it hot from fresh ginger or a tea bag, or drink it cold. I also have turmeric that I shake on like salt or pepper.”

Canine companion

“I got Honey five years ago after my husband died. I was lonely and a little depressed. Having the responsibility helped. She’s a goldendoodle; I wanted a dog big enough that if I stepped on it, I wouldn’t break its leg. We play a lot. She walks around the house with the ball in her mouth: ‘Come play with me, come play with me.’ ”

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