Sydell Harris Dishes on Being Fit and Fabulous at 95
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Sydell Harris Dishes on Being Fit and Fabulous at 95

Spa founder Sydell Harris spoke at Somerby Senior Community in Sandy Springs, sharing decades of ups and downs and the importance of giving back.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Atlanta spa queen Sydell Harris recently turned 95 and shared her tips for aging gracefully with the residents of Somerby Senior Community.
Atlanta spa queen Sydell Harris recently turned 95 and shared her tips for aging gracefully with the residents of Somerby Senior Community.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of England, recently turned 96. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, spa queen Sydell Harris turned 95 and hopped in her Cadillac to address the residents of Somerby Senior Community on April 21.

Arguably the most senior woman in the room, Harris told of her journey from New York to Atlanta to found the most glamorous and recognized full-service eponymous spa chain, Spa Sydell. For 29 years, the Sydell brand anchored shopping neighborhoods from Gwinnett to Cobb Counties and some in between, like the flagship store on West Paces Ferry at Peachtree Road.

Convinced that beauty comes from within, Harris told of her pledge to give back and revel in gratitude for positive things. “I volunteered at Camp Sunshine and met a mother who had lost a child to cancer,” she recalled.

“That mother expressed that she was most grateful for the 16 years she had with that daughter. From that moment on, I internalized how blessed we are to be here, happy to take care of ourselves and others and to concentrate on thinking good thoughts.”

Dressed in jeweled black flats and a pumpkin orange jacket over an ebony ensemble, Sydell captivated the audience with her posture and stage presence, never referring to notes. She related that her older sister was turning 99 and that she shares with her many of the same positive values.

Harris explained the importance of activities and beauty routines to be your “best self” by showing up and being engaged. “When we do for others, it comes back to us,” she counseled. “Volunteering at the Shepherd Spinal Center, I was guided to approach a depressed patient hiding under the bed covers. I said, ‘I’m here to do your makeup and give you a little massage.’ Afterwards. I handed her a mirror to see the results, and her whole demeanor brightened.”

She also emphasized the importance of mental and physical stimulation. “I can still touch my toes, but even if you are not able to get out of the chair, you can move your shoulders, punch with your hands and wiggle your arms,” she said. “Hands at this age are very important. Even with bits of arthritis, you must continue to bend the fingers in a repetitive clawing motion to be able to open bottle caps and the like.”

Harris likes to watch cooking shows, try new recipes, sew, and read to keep her mind sharp and nimble, reminding the audience that she once made her own wedding dress over 70 years ago.

Sydell noted that, after her 70th anniversary party, her late husband and Sydell cofounder, Arthur, went downhill physically. “Learning how to live alone, with no one to talk to was hard,” she recalled. “Yes, I was hurt and sad to lose Arthur. But, on the positive side, I have pictures of him all around the house, and I’ve made peace with the fact that we had so many decades together.”

When asked to what she attributes her success, Harris said, “I was good at giving advice and sharing ideas with others. Some are too jealous to do that. Not me. If I have a good doctor or service person, I am the first to spread it all around, as well as provide helpful ideas to improve the lives of others.”

The key to aging gracefully, she said, is “the obvious: eating fruits and veggies, never going to sleep with makeup on, using sunblock and creams. Learn something new every day. Even though it’s not so good, I do watch the news. And moisturize, even it means spraying yourself with water, especially while traveling on a plane.”

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