I saw this news story today about a 100-year-old man, Fauja Singh, completing the Toronto marathon. Moreover, he only started running at age 89! As a Rolfer™ working with bodies of a variety of ages every day, one thing that interests me is how gracefully some people age, staying mobile and active, while others end up wtih canes and walkers at a relatively young age. While there are certainly many factors involved, activity levels certainly play a role. Singh certainly demonstrates that it's never too late to begin a fitness program, and that one is never too old to exercise in some appropriate form.
When I lived in Japan, I noticed that you almost never say elderly people with any assistance for mobility except a cane – and this included really elderly people. One thing about life in Japan – the big cities anyway – is that relatively few people had cars, and those who did generally drove them for recreation, not daily commutes. So it was commonplace to walk to the store, to walk to the train station, to walk from the office to lunch, etc. From just a rough calculation in my head, I reckon that I walked at least an hour every day, plus up and down lots of stairs at train stations. This certainly has to be a factor in the mobility of the elderly. I'm sure the culture of sitting and sleeping on the floor also helps with mobility as legs and hips will be taken through a wider range of motion that we get in the West in our sofa / chair / bed culture.
While the work I do, Rolfing® Structural Integration, can help people regain mobility and work well in concert with a fitness program, there's no escape from the need to move our bodies for lasting health.