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Forever Young

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The day that everything changed

When Warren had shoulder pain and trouble breathing in 2010, he did what anyone in his situation would. He went to his cardiologist.

One angiogram later, the now-retired staff sergeant with Peel Regional Police learned he had an artery that was nearly entirely blocked. Warren had surgery to insert a stent and relieve the obstruction, but there was no resting on any laurels of modern medicine for averting a potentially life-threatening outcome at 48 years old. Instead, his health scare led to an epiphany for a man who had seemingly been doing everything right when it came to living a long, healthy life.

Eating for health

Warren was determined to do better, and the first place he started was with his diet. He took his cues from his vegetarian wife, Grace, and the father of medicine himself, Hippocrates, known for emphasizing the critical role food plays in one’s health. Letting food be his medicine, he considered his meat consumption.

“I didn’t give up meat then, but it progressed from there,” the 57-year-old recalls.

Three years ago, with longevity in mind, Warren and Grace went vegan. Giving up dairy alleviated the respiratory issues he had, he says. And giving up all animal products for a plant-based diet enabled him to forgo his prescription of statin drugs once required to lower his cholesterol.

Warren maintains he’s never felt better—so much so that going vegan has become his touchstone for healthy aging. He’s cashing in on as many as possible of those proverbial golden years ahead with Grace, 56; their adult daughters, Kamillia and Karlyle; and the couple’s three grandchildren.

“Can everything be cured by diet? No, but there are a lot of chronic diseases you can stop with this,” he says.

Joining Grace over a bowl of lentil soup and fresh vegetables with bean dip in their St. Catharines, Ontario, home, Warren explains going vegan was a natural progression in his philosophy on living—and aging—well.

Seeing the big picture

“A lot has to do with diet and a balanced lifestyle,” he says. “You have to eat well, laugh, get lots of good exercise, have good people around you who are positive and of the same mindset. It’s the complete package.”

And it’s one that got him through 30 years of policing—a career that can prematurely age a person for being privy to the worst in humanity. That’s why it was critical for Warren to take his positive outlook from home to the office every day and use it to lead and inspire his platoon of more than 40 officers.

“As I’ve always said to my platoon, you have to take care of each other, be safe, and have a little fun,” he says. “Everyone feeds off the boss. You need to be in control and take a deep breath. Your mood, your demeanour, that’s how the platoon is going to be.”

Those are words Constable Tim Rourke, a member of Warren’s platoon in Peel, took to heart.

“His classic line is ‘Be safe out there. The most important thing is we go home at the end of the day,’” Rourke says. “He’s adamant about keeping stress levels down. I like the song he sings. He stresses the importance of family.”

Warren and Grace Robinson’s 4 keys to healthy aging

  1. Eat plants. Warren maintains that his plant-based diet has given him “a new lease on life.”
  2. Separate work life from home life, and make time with family a priority. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
  3. Keep moving.
  4. Do what you love. For years, Grace worked in insurance when all she wanted to do was groom dogs and cats. She does that now. Her business in St. Catharines is thriving, and combined with the points above, she says she feels younger now than ever before.

Healthy living into retirement

Two years from his own retirement, Rourke regards  Warren Robinson as a model of healthy living and aging for people at any stage of life. It’s uncommon to see a staff sergeant staying in shape, Rourke notes. But it was never uncommon to see Staff Sergeant Robinson working out over lunch—“He just kills it,” Rourke says—or hear him talking to younger officers about the benefits he’s reaped by going vegan.

“This guy practises what he preaches, and I really appreciate that,” Rourke says. “He’s inspired me to eat more vegetables and less red meat. I haven’t gone vegan, but he inspired me to think more about what goes in.”

Looking ahead, Warren knows that what he puts in is directly related to what he’ll get out of this next phase in life.

“My goal is work 30 years, and I want to collect my pension for at least 30 years,” he says. “Stay active, stay involved with my family, from my wife to my girls, to my grandkids. I just want to do my thing, work hard, be there for my family, and try to be a good person.”

Family matters

Ask Warren Robinson his take on healthy aging and he’ll tell you to adopt a plant-based diet. But throughout his adult life, something else has kept him young: his family.

“We’re very close with our children,” he says. Warren was 12 years old when his mother died of cancer, and though he describes his teen years that followed as “a little bumpy,” he found family in the sports teams for which he played, including the Canadian Football League’s BC Lions in 1988.

A year later, he returned to Ontario to be closer to his blood relatives, and was prepared to sign on with the Toronto Argonauts when he learned his wife, Grace, was pregnant. Warren put his family-to-be first and hung up his cleats for a regular paycheque. He was hired by Peel Regional Police that year.

Policing doesn’t always make a stable family life easy, but Warren refused to become another negative statistic. Family was his first priority, trumping work during his 30 years of policing, and even his time spent socializing. There was no one he wanted to be with more in his free time than his wife and children, and now his grandchildren.

“At the end of the day, home is the security blanket. Being lonely is not a good thing. I know a lot of people who are lonely, and it’s not good for their health,” he says.

Tiffany Mayer hails from St. Catharines, Ontario, where her fountain of youth is found in her husband, daughter, and five cats.

 

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