If you look back at almost every ancient culture you will likely come across similar stories of heroes and adventurers dawning quests to obtain eternal youth. From Alexander the Great to Juan Ponce de Leon, it seemed as though everyone was searching for the “fountain of youth” (Greenspan, 2013). While this “fountain” was never found, it perfectly captures the human desire to live a youthful life.
In recent years, scientists have identified several communities worldwide where people live incredibly long and healthy lives. These areas, termed “Blue Zones,” have a lot to teach us about how to live happier and healthier lives!
So where are these places? Currently, scientists have identified 5 blue zones: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California. Through extensive research, scientists have identified 7 important aspects of life that contribute to the longevity in these areas.
- Regular Movement: The people in these areas regularly move their bodies. These areas tend to have less automated luxuries and the occupants often engage in daily activities (such as gardening, cooking, and walking) that elicit movement.
- Purpose: All of these cultures emphasize living a life of meaning and purpose. The individuals who live in these areas wake up each day driven by their intended purposes.
- Mechanisms to Reduce Stress: Each of these cultures emphasize daily activities that reduce stress.
- Diet: While the specific diets seen in each blue zone do differ, they all share some guiding principles. They all only eat until they are ~80% (this prevents the constant gain and loss of weight). All of their diets are predominantly vegetable focussed with small occasional portions of meat. Additionally, all of these cultures drink alcohol regularly (averaging around 1-2 drinks per day).
- Faith: In all of these areas, those who live the longest tend to be heavily involved in faith-based communities.
- Family: Each of these cultures emphasizes family over everything. It is an expectation that family members take care of each other in old age. Additionally, individuals tend to maintain close, monogamous relationships with their spouses.
- Strong Social Ties: Individuals from these communities are often very community-focused. They devote much of their time to maintaining important social relationships.
(Barclay, 2015; Buettner & Skemp, 2016; Mishra, 2009).
It just goes to show the important role our social relationships, diet, activity level, and life view have on our healthy and happy transition into older adulthood!