An interesting book that researches the world’s “best practices” for aging well is The Blue Zones, Second Edition, by National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner. This book was written in collaboration with The National Institute on Aging and top gerontologists and scientists who gathered data on successful longevity from all over the world. The book focuses on “longevity pockets,” including Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; and Ikaria Greece, where people not only live longer, but live happily into old age.
Built on interviews with centenarians, the book presents an interesting cross cultural collection on the wisdom of eating in moderation, keeping active, sleeping well, enjoying sunshine, drinking (water, wine, goat’s milk–in Sardinia), having purposeful work, and planting and eating from a garden. Probably the most important item in the collection is the concept of connection with family, friends, community, and ancestors. Aging is best done with others!
An interesting take on connection is the Okinawan practice of creating a family shrine in the home. This collection of pictures and items from relatives who have gone before to present family members can help us to remember and connect with our roots. I recently visited a young couple who had taken a hallway wall in their home to create a visible family tree. For those whose family roots are not so well known or present painful memories, a shrine of new connections may be an appropriate way to acknowledge that life is best lived in community, wherever and however we may find it.
Aging begins at birth. It is not a disease of the later years. It is all about a journey.