Longevity Guru Sam Almond
by Peter d’Aguilar
It may not be possible to live for ever, but 91-year-old Sam Almond from Eastbourne is certainly giving it his best shot. Peter d’Aguilar recently met with him to find out more.
Sam believes passionately in living life to the full. Born in Manchester in 1926, he had to spend some of his childhood with an aunt in Ireland, after his mother contracted TB. It took seven years for her to recover and, as a consequence, she became a health and fitness fanatic – passing this passion on to her son.
Sam was also a keen sportsman; playing cricket, football, tennis, swimming and, in particular, taking part in diving competitions. He was shortlisted for the 1948 British Olympic team in the 3 metre springboard section but had to forego the opportunity as there was no funding in those days.
Sam’s lifelong philosophy is built around the twin principles of discipline and good habits, which were drilled into him during his formative years at a school run like a military academy by a former Indian Army major.
After school, Sam read Architecture at University College, Manchester. By then WWII was in full spate so, aged 17, Sam joined the Air Force Cadets and volunteered, as many did, to become a fighter pilot. In December 1943, he went with fifty other volunteers for a tough three-day pilot medical and was one of only three to pass. As he was still too young for full service, he was sworn into the RAF and put on reserve. In April 1944, he took an honourable discharge and spent the next three years in the Merchant Navy, nine months of which was during the war.
At the age of 24 Sam decided to become an entrepreneur. First, he set up a shirt business in Warrington, grew it until he had 160 employees and sold it on at a healthy profit. He capitalised on this success by starting a leasing business, again selling it profitably. He then began importing honey from New Zealand, moved into commercial property and afterwards took a stake in an investment trust. This sparked an interest in finance that remains as strong today.
Sam suffered two minor strokes in his early eighties and realised that he needed to make some changes. “My cholesterol was too high,” says Sam. “So, I cut down on fat, sugar, salt, processed food and started eating a smaller evening meal. The most important ingredients for a long life are eating properly with lots of fruit and veg, drinking plenty of water and exercising both the body and the mind.”
Sam gives motivational talks on lifestyle and believes in practising what he preaches. He is currently the UK 90 to 95 year group swimming champion, and will be defending his title this summer. “It is harder to keep in good mental and physical shape as you get older. Good habits and discipline are the key. Your health is the best investment you can make. Life is a wonderful opportunity – you have to make the most of it.” And if he makes it to 105 he will receive a large pay-out from a bookmaker on a wager he placed some fifteen years ago.