Explorer and writer Dan Buettner is the founder of Quest Network Inc. which has created more than a dozen online, interactive global expeditions. His latest project, exploring longevity among centenarians was done in four areas of the world, which have a higher than average number of centenarians. That groundbreaking research on longevity was a cover story for National Geographic and a finalist for the National Magazine award.
Now he has written the results of his research in BLUE ZONES LESSONS FOR LIVING LONGER FROM THE PEOPLE WHO’VE LIVED THE LONGEST. The residents of the four zones in different parts of the world not only lived longer, they had healthy aging. To do this research Dan traveled to Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. I interviewed Dan and asked him what if any similarities he found among these diverse groups. The answer was few and not the ones he had thought he would find, he thought there would be a genetic component. There wasn’t. There were some overall characteristics they did seem to share. The longevity diet used very different but most contained a high percentage of plant foods and little meat. Some dined on fare we would probably not adopt; mugwort, fermented soy, goats’ milk and mastic oil. There were other common ingredients we might well include in our diets: garlic, onion and turmeric.
The centenarians Dan interviewed were all active. Unlike those of us in the US who might hop on a Fast Trak or take up cycling, rowing or weight lifting, their exercise came from the everyday routines. They had slowed down, were doing somewhat less than when they were younger, but they had routines such as gardening which still kept them active. Beyond diet and exercise, one of the most important factors was having a reason for living, with a purpose to fulfill each day. In the US we would call it a mission statement. They also had support groups; for all but one that meant family and life long friends, of these had lived in one place and stayed close to family and friends. Families respected their aged members and supported them emotionally, financially and with needed household tasks. Most of them lived alone and still kept up their homes. We Americans would probably find their lifestyles dull.
Dan and his team found it was routine and a lack of stress that contributed to their life expectancy. In Sardinia, unlike other places it was the women who “wore the pants in the family”. They cared for the family and their finances, they showed more stress than the men who farmed and were often alone most of the day.
Socialization was a big part of the lives of these centenarians who lived long happy lives. Whether it was a group of women who had known each other since childhood, it was similar to the community of people in California who shared the same religious faith, (Seventh Day Adventist), diet, (vegetarianism) and values that provided that sense of community even if they were not close to their immediate families.
You will find BLUE ZONES a good read, with some colorful characters to meet along the way. Perhaps it will set you to think about what it is you want in your later years that will allow you to not only live longer, but also to live a healthy happy life.