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How to Make Your Home a Blue Zone
Posted in: Aging Well
Last year, I attended a national conference for aging services providers and was introduced to Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones. When Buettner shared what he found when he visited populations with high rates of longevity, and more importantly, longevity without the health problems many older Americans experience, he was speaking my language.
He found people who were not only living longer, but living stronger.
As someone whose career – and passion – is supporting and encouraging wellness for older persons, I was inspired to try and make Inverness Village a small Blue Zone in Oklahoma.
Our own wellness program already included many of the common denominators Buettner identified in his research; for instance, having a purpose or reason to get up each morning, making sure you are moving and working your muscles each day, eating healthy foods and spending time with people who bring joy and meaning to your days. I, too, remind people that how we age is overwhelmingly based on lifestyle choices, not genetic factors beyond our control.
It’s important to remember that Blue Zone populations have been living these healthy habits from birth. They are ingrained in the culture. But here are a few key Blue Zone lessons we’ve taken to heart at Inverness Village.
- Don’t “retire” – the United States is one of the few cultures that has a word for retirement. Having a reason to get out there and engage with the world is key to staying active lifestyle and mentally sharp. Zeroing in on a purpose and passion is something that only you can do for yourself. But it is a critical step to living happily.
- Be on your feet more than you’re on your seat – Buettner calls this “moving naturally.” Blue Zone populations walk, bike and garden. Frequent movement is built into their lifestyles. Try this experiment. Set a timer for 45 minutes and see how often you move during that span of time. Long stretches of sitting negatively impacts your joints, circulation and energy level. We are made to move.
- Hara hachi bu – In Okinawa, this 2,500-year-old mantra is repeated before every meal. It reminds diners to stop eating when their stomach feels close to full. This is a small change that can make a significant difference if you stick to it.
- Plant slant – You don’t have to give up meat, but make plants and grains the focus of more meals. And why not give a day, or at least a meal, without meat a try?
To read more about Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones and to see his nine common denominators for living strong click here. Trying to adapt all of them at once can be overwhelming, but choosing one area where you would like to improve can be an important motivator to other changes. There’s not one that’s better than another but there’s one that’s better for you.