Imagine being alive when Calvin Coolidge was President.
If you’re 100 years old, Silent Cal was a mini part of your life.
Living to 100 and being alive for a century are two completely different ballgames.
It’s fascinating to study healthy and engaged Centenarians.
How did they make it this far?
We know one thing. It’s not about money.
Dan Buettner seeks answers in his book The Blue Zones, Secrets for Living Longer.
Blue Zones are longevity pockets, diminutive areas of the world where a disproportionate number of Centenarians live. Netflix recently aired a documentary on this topic.
Not surprisingly, the United States isn’t teeming with them. We have a total of one located in Loma Linda, California. It is a community of about 9,000 Seventh-day Adventists.
Buettner points out that life expectancy for individuals in developed nations (Those not beleaguered by infectious diseases) is about 93 years – less for men and a little longer for women. In the United States, life expectancy is around 77 despite being the wealthiest nation ever to exist.
Americans spend over $151 billion on vitamins and supplements. The numbers sprout to $160 Billion for exercise.
What do we get for this combined $311 Billion in wellness expenditures?
How about 17 years less in lifespan compared to comparable developed nations?
How can this mismatch be explained?
It turns out Blue Zones have scant to do with money. Most Blue Zones are far less wealthy than the average American town or city.
Source: World Economic Forum
Let’s take a look at the small Italian Island of Sardinia. In the six villages encompassing this Italian Blue Zone, 17,865 Sardinians were born between 1880 and 1900. Of this group, 91 lived to their 100th birthday. Compared to the United States, this exceeds what you expect to find by a factor of 10!
Sardinia is known for its beautiful beaches, not wealth. Shepherds tend not to make six-figure incomes.
It turns out that this region possesses something much more valuable than money: connections.
Centenarians are revered, not discarded from jobs and eventually tossed into Nursing homes. They’re a vital part of their Family’s dynamics and are made to feel useful and appreciated. Elders aren’t considered burdens to society.
They’re expected to contribute. Gardening, cooking, and childcare play vital roles in their lives. A sense of purpose is the cure for many physical and mental health issues. Choosing between productive social engagement and a million-dollar investment portfolio is a no-brainer.
Leave the money on the table and embrace purposeful connections with friends and Family. The rest will take care of itself.
Older Sardinians laugh a lot and don’t take themselves too seriously.
Buettner adds that only 19% of people here over the age of 90 suffer any form of Dementia, compared to 33% in the United States. “The lesson of the Blue Zone is that Dementia is not necessarily an inevitable event for the elderly.”
We don’t have to move to Italy (Though it is an option) to benefit from Sardinia’s Blue Zone. We can try to incorporate lessons from their healthy lifestyles to make our lives longer and happier.
- Eat a “Peasant” based diet; Beans, whole-grain sourdough bread, garden vegetables, cheese from grass-fed sheep, and olive oil are Sardinian diet staples. Eating food that contains one ingredient is never a bad idea.
- Put Family First: Suicide, depression, and stress beset our nation. Strong family values are an essential antidote. Connect more to the people around you and less to your stock portfolio.
- Celebrate Elders: Nobody is immune from Ageism, unlike other forms of prejudice. Use the hard-earned experience of your elders to continue traditions, provide wisdom, and set proper expectations. All the members of the Family will benefit.
- Walk- Most Sardinians walk over 5 miles a day. It is part of their job as shepherds. In addition, many of their roads are steep, adding extra benefits to the mileage. The lesson here is you don’t have to be a Triathlon competitor to live to a 100. It differs from the standard American custom of needing a ranch house once you turn 60 to avoid climbing the stairs.
- Laugh: Laughter is a great stress reducer. Sardinians love to laugh with and at each other. There is no time for a cancel culture here.
Creating a livable Blue Zone for yourself and your Family should be a part of everyone’s goals-based financial plan.
Herding Sheep is optional.