How To Look 15 Years Younger

Our tour guide sprinted off with such vigor, I was wondering whether we’d be able to keep up. And she wasn’t just quick on her feet, the elderly lady with short hair. “54 hectares, 872 soldiers, 8 battle stations, and up to 90 days 35 meters below ground without going outside once,” she told us about Ouvrage Simserhof, one of over 140 grand bunkers along the Maginot Line. The Line is a series of over 5,000 fortifications set up by the French military after World War I, running all the way from the North Sea to Corsica, and this was its fourth-largest installment (and second-largest in terms of firepower, as Madame Klein let us know).

For the next two-and-a-half hours, she showed us over three kilometers of the bowels of what was, essentially, a fully functional underground city. She shared with us more facts than I could even write down, let alone remember, and she always darted from sight to sight with a spring in her step.

She loved to ask us why we thought certain elements had been designed the way they were. “Everything had a reason. Not a single thing left to chance.” Why are there tiles in the engine room but nowhere else? Because diesel seeps into concrete and turns it into an ember that burns for months once set on fire. Why did the soldiers get beef six days of the week? Because beef is the only meat resistant to salmonella.

Madame Klein was proud of her knowledge of this historical place, but she was even prouder to have met some of the people who had once worked to keep it alive. “You won’t find this in any book. Ten perfectly cut pieces of toilet, well, newspaper for each soldier — and if you had diarrhea, then, tough luck!”

“But wait a minute,” I thought. “If she knew people who worked here, a place that was built from 1929 to 1938, and manned only for a year until France surrendered in 1940, she must be…” “Guess how old I am,” Madame Klein said right that moment. Of course, minding our manners, none of us dared making a suggestion, except for a young lady: “72!” “72?!” I thought, “That woman looks not a day older than 65 to me.” But Madame Klein could only chuckle. “Don’t tell anyone, but I’ll be 80 come December. Allez!”

As we learned after the end of the tour, Madame Klein had never intended to be a World War II bunker tour guide. Her husband was, and one day, he simply suggested she come along. “Et voilà, here I am.” But Madame Klein’s husband died in 2006. That was 17 years ago. Yet, she never stopped giving tours. Approaching 80, with children who are close to retirement (!), she’s still going strong. Still walking briskly, dragging unsuspecting visitors into the fascinating story of Simserhof.

I’ve seen many an anti-aging recipe, from special diets to biohacking to rejuvenating creams — but so far, I’ve only ever witnessed one that actually works: Live. Live fully and without hesitation. Show up for every day. Be present for the moments that don’t seem to count — because it’s our presence that makes moments matter. Care. Care for someone. Care about something. Invest into it. Own it. Make it your responsibility, and then live up to it in front of all of us. Show us you care. Show us what’s important to you. It doesn’t matter what it is. As long as you take pride in serving a cause, we’ll take pride in being close to you. You’ll never lose the spring in your step, and even if you ask us, we’ll probably think you’re 15 years younger than you actually are — because unlike history, age is rarely about the numbers, and the passionate will always stay young at heart.