As someone with an interest in health and wellbeing, I am fascinated by the idea of “Blue Zones” (geographic concentrations of centenarians, or people who live to 100). If you haven’t watched the Netflix docuseries, “Live to 100 – Secrets of the Blue Zones” – I highly recommend it!
In the show, Dan Buettner travels the globe to five Blue Zones to uncover what these people do so differently than the rest of the world. At the end of each episode, he discerns 4-5 values, traditions, lifestyles, or credos he believes have led them to age in such an incredible, awe-inspiring way.I appreciate you may not have Netflix (or a shared interest in my nerdy obsession), so while I have your attention, I’ll give you the “cliff-notes” version and share with you my personal takeaways.
First up on our tour of Blue Zones is Okinawa, Japan a chain of about 160 small islands in the southernmost part of the country. Here, we learn that BALANCE is integral to living to 100. People here commonly sit on the floor to work or spend time with friends and family which means they are constantly using their core and leg muscles to get them up and down. Along with balance, we learn that Okinawans also have a concept called “IKIGAI” which is their purpose for being. This is their reason for getting up each day and continuing to live a productive and joyous life.
Next, we move into the Mediterranean, to visit Sardinia, Italy home to some of the world’s oldest men! It is believed that men age so well here because most of them work as shepherds. After tending to their flock and an afternoon nap, they make it home in time to enjoy a glass of vino with their friends making this a LOW STRESS lifestyle. For your geographical information, Sardinia is a very hilly, mountainous island in Italy which is believed to be one of the primary reasons for living to 100 - STEEPNESS. You often find the residents in Sardinia walking the narrow, cobblestone roads and stairs to tend to their daily errands. Not far from Sardinia in the Mediterranean, is the beautiful island of Ikaria, Greece. Here, they value family and traditions like many of the other Blue Zones and have a zest for life fueled by DANCING & LAUGHING.
Our last few stops take us to the Americas. At our own doorstep, is the city of Loma Lima, California where a group of 7th Day Adventists are living to 100 in great numbers. Health is certainly indoctrinated into their faith including regular physical activity and a vegetarian diet. Also helping the residents of Loma Lima is finding the RIGHT TRIBE. You may have heard that you are the sum of the five people you surround yourself with and this community of like-minded people are growing into centenarians unlike anywhere else in the U.S.
Last on our stop is the city of Nicoya, Costa Rica – generally a poor and remote part of the country, these residents spend a fraction of the amount of money on healthcare we do in the States and are living much longer, healthier lives. Like Okinawa, they also have a “PLAN DE VIDA” or purpose for their life which fuels them. The lifelong residents of Nicoya are hard-working people, but they would never choose to do more work over spending time with friends and family, making SLOWING DOWN a big factor in this Blue Zone.
To wrap it up, I now believe community, purpose, physical activity, controlled stress, and a (mostly) plant-based diet seem to be the key to becoming a centenarian - and most importantly, getting there without dementia, preventable diseases, or ending up in a nursing home! Hopefully you’ll indulge in the docuseries and take away a little nugget to help us all live healthier, more fulfilled lives. Cheers!