Dr. Walter Bortz II passes away at age 93

by Linda Hubbard on August 15, 2023

Retired Stanford University professor, physician and author Walter Bortz II died at age 93 in his Portola Valley home on August 5 after a period of declining health. 

“His life was devoted to his ideals, his family, his passionate advocacy for aging long and well. As a physician for almost 70 years, he recognized the power that we have to heal ourselves and age successfully with proper exercise, healthy diet and social interaction,” reflected Dr. Maria A Fiatarone Singh, a geriatrician at the University of Sydney who knew Walter for over 40 years.

Born on March 20, 1930, in Philadelphia, PA, Walter graduated from Williams College and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. After practicing medicine with his father Edward Bortz in Philadelphia in the 1950s, he joined what is now known as the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “When I joined the clinic they said, ‘You are our anointed gerontologist,’ and I loved it,” he recalled in an interview with the Palo Alto Weekly in 2018.

Walter’s research focused on the importance of physical exercise during the process of aging. He wrote 150 scientific articles for research publications such as JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, and Journal of Biological Chemistry, as well as articles in The New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, The New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, and Town & Country.

HIs first book for a general audience, We Live Too Short and Die Too Long, came out in 1991 followed by Dare to be 100, Living Longer for Dummies, Diabetes Danger, Next Medicine, and Occupy Medicine. While initially focusing on healthy aging and longevity, he turned his attention in 2011 to another kind of illness — the ailing American health care system — in the book Next Medicine.

“To make a revolution work, there needs to be a general consensus that something is bad,” Walter said during an InMenlo interview about Next Medicine. “And there must be a replacement paradigm.”

He proposed a medical system that emphasizes personal responsibility and provides incentives for healthy lifestyle choices, along with new training for medical professionals.

“He inspired generations of other health care professionals, students, politicians, scientists, and patients with his unrelenting pursuit of a life well-lived,” said Dr. Singh. 

In promoting healthy aging, he practiced what he preached, participating in 45 marathons over the years. Well into his ‘80s, he could be spotted on the Stanford track and Portola Valley pathways.

Walter was predeceased by his wife Ruth Anne in 2015. He leaves behind four children — Danna Breen, Gretchen Lieff, Edward Bortz and Walter Bortz III — nine grandchildren, a great granddaughter, and companion Jeanne Kennedy.

There is no memorial gathering planned at this time.

InMenlo file photo (c) 2011

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