If you knew that living to a hundred would mean good health, mental well-being, and happiness, would you want to do it? I believe most of us would say, "Yes!" The fear for us is thinking that as we age, we'll encounter more and more physical disabilities and diminished mental awareness. We're not reassured much as we sit and watch TV, and ad after ad promotes pills for different conditions. The best part is listening to all of the side effects that come from taking these medications. Some of them sound scarier than the disease itself.
I just started watching Dan Buettner's 'Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zone' series. The Netflix show takes us around the world to visit what researchers call 'The Blue Zones,' where communities are home to an above-average group of centenarians. Not only do the inhabitants have longer lives, but for the most part, they're thriving physically and mentally. They're not on various prescriptions for cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure. Which, for most of us, we believe is inevitable. So, what's their secret?
The common thread throughout is having a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. The Mediterranean diet is an excellent example of this. Exercise happens naturally. These seniors continue doing manual labor, gardening, walking everywhere, singing, and dancing.
The most significant difference I see in these areas of thriving older individuals is their close-knit group of friends and family. Many of the people interviewed said they live with very little stress because they know their loved ones are nearby. They don't feel alone. They're a core part of their family and are valued for their experience and advice.
Many seniors also reported that their well-being came from volunteering their time to be of service to others. This sense of purpose gave them a reason to get up every day and know that they were making a difference in the world. Studies have shown the positive effects on our mindset when we help people. Taking time to be with a neighbor, offering to deliver meals, or listening to a friend who needs an understanding ear not only helps them but also helps us in the long run.
One of the main reasons I'm enjoying this show is how uplifting it is. Dan Buettner is an interesting man, and his story of why he decided to do this kind of research in the first place is fascinating. We're constantly bombarded with sad and tragic news from around the world, and it's hard not to feel helpless. I'm always on the lookout for advice that I can take to better myself. When we can feel in control of situations, the less we stress over what we can't.
When I see how straightforward it is to live a long, healthy life, it takes away much of the fear of aging. I recognize that I'm not living on a beautiful island surrounded by crystal-blue water, but that doesn't mean I can't follow many of the suggestions that Dan's program offers. I'm also inspired by my father, who'll be ninety-four next month. He still goes on short walks, visits with the neighbors, and sees his friends at his favorite restaurant. What cracks me up is that my dad didn't want anyone to know how old he was for years. Now, he brags about his age, as he should!
My hope is to remind everyone that taking care of ourselves shouldn't be an afterthought but necessary. I wish you all a long, happy, healthy life.