Many of us will admit that we like the idea of living a long, healthy life. If that is the case, why do we often hear someone say, “I don’t want to get old.” I understand that statement to an extent. The word “old” implies that we have arrived at a final destination and maybe we just aren’t ready for that yet. Perhaps, for those mature folks among us, the word “older” may be more palatable. Truth is, the desire to be older probably already lurked in our hearts at some point in our life, whether it was to get older in order to drive a car, be an adult, or leave our parents’ home.
A couple of unrelated occurrences brought the thought of healthy aging back to me. I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Roger Landry speak at a local Kiwanis Club and my mom turned 90 years old. Dr. Landry is a physician of preventative medicine, author of ‘Live Long, Die Short’, and President of Masterpiece Living. My mom is a breast cancer survivor, widowed three times, who continues to sew catnip-stuffed mice for friends’ furry pets and bake goodies for the family.
During Dr. Landry’s presentation, he mentioned blue zones. Blue zones are areas, as first identified in demographic work by Michel Poula and Gianna Pes, where people live exceptionally long lives. These five special communities with multiple octogenarians, nonagenarians, and even centenarians are—
- The Barbagia region of Sardinia, Italy—a Mediterranean Sea island
- Ikaria, Greece—an Aegean Sea island
- Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast
- A Seventh Day Adventists Colony—Loma Linda, California
- Okinawa, Japan
The work of Pes and Poula was expounded on by Dan Buettner, who went on to copyright the name Blue Zones ©, write a series of books, and define the common characteristics found in people living in blue zones worldwide. There is a lot of content on the Blue Zones © website if you want to delve into the topic more intensely. For me, some encouraging take-aways from Dr. Landry’s discussion, along with observing my own mother’s long life, include—
- Keep moving—walk, kick, bend, squat, dig, stoop. Don’t get hung up on the notion that you have to go to the gym for a work-out. Not that that is a bad thing. It’s just that we sometimes have an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach. That gets discouraging when the three-weekly-trips-to-the-gym-plan doesn’t happen. The key is to be living a life that keeps your body and mind moving as part of your everyday existence.
- Be full of beans—it seems that beans and lentils of all types are a major player in the diets of the long-lifers. Along with that, go easy on meat, quit eating before you get full, and make your last meal of the day your lightest. The blue zones also put a plug in for the benefit of a regular glass or two of wine, taken with meals or friends.
- Have a real connection with friends, family, and faith—while it may be different for all of us, the long-lifers have a common thread of putting others first. They have seriously strong social bonds, maintaining commitment to marriages and other relationships that include attending faith-based services at least once weekly.
- Maintain a balance between purpose and relaxation—a reason for living apparently has a lot to do with longevity. Seems obvious doesn’t it? This doesn’t have to be a world-changing endeavor. Just something that makes a difference in your own world—like hand-sewn cloth mice full of catnip for the neighbor’s pet. At the same time, daily timeframes for spiritual devotions, prayer, meditation, naps, or happy hour is important for de-stressing. The key here, I believe, is dedicated, daily participation in your individualized purpose and mode of relaxation.
At the Sedona Community Center we have a grand variety of ways for you to work on your own blue zone formula for longevity and happiness. Check out our monthly menus and activity calendars at www.sccsedona.org or drop by at 2615 Melody Lane.