By Jim Selman | Bio
I never thought longevity was the point to living, although as I grow older I am a lot more interested in the subject that when I was young. I haven’t met Dan Buettner but would like to. He’s written an article in the November issue of the AARP magazine called “Find Purpose, Live Longer”. He has done research in 4 areas of the world called ‘Blue Zones’ that have a large percentage of people who have lived past 100 (Okinawa, Costa Rica, Sardinia, and Loma Linda, California). For the Blue Zones Project, Buettner looked for common practices and, while I have not studied his research, I like his conclusions. Along with having a purpose, he sees four common lifestyle patterns contributing to increased longevity:
1. Moving ‘naturally’. By this he means doing manually what the body can do and trying to get ‘unhooked’ from too many conveniences such as dishwashers, electric toothbrushes and those two-wheel ‘segue’ contraptions. He promotes lots of walking, rolling around with kids and intimate moments. From my point of view, it isn’t so much the exercise that this sort of lifestyle can offer (which I am sure is useful), but the fact that it keeps us engaged in and responsible for all the basic functions of living. I am sure that if people have to start their own fires in the morning they are likely to stay capable of doing so longer than if all they have to do is turn up the thermostats.
2. Eating wisely. This point is pretty obvious and has been the main topic of lots and lots of ‘healthy living’ schools of aging for years. The bottom line for longevity, however, is to tilt toward veggies, don’t overeat and create pleasant rituals around eating—whether it’s at the dining table or sharing wine and cheese in the common square. What I think is challenging is to ask why it is so difficult for us to do what we know to do? Undoubtedly in the locales he researched, these dietary and social practices are part of the culture and do not require exceptional ‘will’ or commitment on the part of the population.
3. Having a right outlook. For Buettner, this includes having a purpose, staying focused on what is needed and wanted, living life into a future in which you expect to be healthy and old until you are at least 100. It is creating a context for living that becomes a vision for day-to-day choices and eventually a self-fulfilling phenomenon in which our commitments are a reflection of a positive future (and not resistance to a negative one). It is the difference between looking forward to being old and trying to stay young as long as possible.
4. Staying connected. We all know that relationships are the name of the game and that the better our relationships are, the richer our life experience will be. He points out the obvious fact that we’ve been building into the work of The Eldering Institute which is the importance of having a network of relationships of all ages. This may be a big change for many who have lived most of their lives within a relative narrow demographic bandwidth of people their own age. The more we appreciate this, the more we are attuned to ‘otherness’. Whether the ‘other’ is spiritual or physical, it creates something and someone(s) that is ‘not us’ which is the key to escaping the prison of our mind and the self-referentiality that blinds us to possibility.
In the final analysis, living longer may simply be about being happy, living in the present and trusting the process of life to take care of the big issues. Growing older in this way is about letting go of the need to understand and control and surrendering to the fact that we live our lives one day at a time (for beyond that, it is all just a point of view).
So the next time someone asks you, “How are you?”, look at the people in your network of relationships before you respond. If they are healthy, happy and well, then you are doing okay. In other words, measure your own success by the success of those who surround you. Chances are you’ll be around for a long time.
© 2008 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.