For most people, aging is mysterious. While there are many ways to hypothesize how we might age, such as family history, genetic testing, and overall lifestyle choices, there’s no specific formula that will tell us exactly what awaits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, life expectancy in the United States is 78.6 years. However, there are many people who live beyond that expectancy. In fact, nearly 72,000 Americans reached the age 100 in 2014, which increased by 44 percent from 2000. So, the question stands—what’s the secret to living a long and happy life? While many have their own theories, National Geographic sought to find out exactly why people live so long. What they found, along with the Blue Zones Team, is that the secret to longevity is made up of nine common denominators.
Blue Zones and National Geographic studied areas around the world that were home to the highest proportions of people who reached age 100. In their studies, they found nine common similarities know as the Power 9:
• Move Naturally– For most centenarians, the movement was engrained in their environment, meaning many of them spent their days walking instead of driving a car and using their bodies instead of modern conveniences.
• Purpose– Those who live longest have a reason to wake up in the morning and feel excited about the day ahead.
• Downshift– Having a stress-reducing routine that’s part of normal daily life helps reduce the risk of suffering from stress-related illnesses, like chronic inflammation.
• 80% Rule– Many who live long lives are disciplined when it comes to food and stop eating when they are 80% full.
• Plant Slant– A common theme among centenarians was a plant-based diet. Many only eat meat on average five times per month.
• Wine at 5– Surprisingly, drinking alcohol frequently, but in moderation has been contributed to longevity.
• Belong– Those who attend faith-based services four times per month will add between 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.
• Loved Ones First– Research from this study found that those who kept their loved ones at the center of their lives lived longer than those who did not. This includes caring for a parent or grandparent, growing a family, and finding a life partner.
• Right Tribe– The most successful centenarians belong to social circles that support healthy habits and ultimately help one another make decisions that promote good health and wellbeing.
Refocusing our lives to emulate the nine values related to longevity can seem like a daunting task. Instead of focusing on the result, making small changes every day is much more manageable. Here are a few ideas to get started:
It’s not uncommon for our purpose and passions to change throughout our lives. If you find that your life is the missing purpose, it’s not too late to find it again. As National Geographic found in its studies, those who age successfully have a reason to get out of bed each day. In fact, another study found that having a purpose in life directly affects the way we age. You might consider writing out a list of all the things that give you joy and bring true happiness. As you reflect and narrow down your list, your true purpose might become clearer.
Another way to find your purpose is to envision your “perfect” life within your own reality. This could include finding a way to live out your purpose or make changes to eliminate negativity from your life. You might consider creating small, but concrete steps to keep you moving towards your ideal life.
Finding a purpose also requires tuning into the world around you. Connecting with others and finding ways to contribute to your community can also bring a sense of purpose and pride. Where do you feel like spending your time? Who do you want to spend your time with?
When we talk about finding a “tribe,” we’re really referring to a group of people who reflect core values and qualities we hope to possess ourselves. Just like our friends or partners, your tribe will inspire you to discover your best self. If you don’t have an inner tribe, finding one probably feels impossible. While it does require effort and authenticity, finding your inner tribe is possible no matter your stage in life.
• Self-Reflect- First think about what types of qualities you want from your inner tribe. What are your goals? What activities do you wish you did more? What are your favorite hobbies? By focusing on these desired qualities, you’ll be able to identify them more quickly when they present themselves in different people.
• Try New Things- Sometimes our inner tribe has qualities or talents we wish we had. To identify with these qualities ourselves, we have to do things we’ve never tried. You might consider taking a new class, trying a new hobby, or attending a concert or show. By trying new things, we open ourselves up to new friendships.
• Live Out of Your Comfort Zone- When we’re comfortable, yet not fulfilled, we haven’t reached our potential. If we consistently push ourselves out of our comfort zones, we put ourselves in positions to learn from others and create meaningful relationships with those we might not meet otherwise.
As reported in the research, National Geographic found that centenarians had lifestyles that focused on healthy habits, including movement. Because many people in the United States drive more than they walk, many times movement has to be a deliberate act. Here are a few natural and easy ways to incorporate movement into your daily life:
• Park Your Car Far Away. If you are able to do so, try choosing a parking space other than the one right by the front door. The additional steps will add up quickly and ultimately help you build endurance and strength.
• Walk and Talk. The next time you talk on the phone, you might consider taking a walk while chatting. The more movement you can add to your day, the better off you will be long-term.
• Stand Up Each Hour. If you spend most of your day sitting down, try to set an alarm to get up and move around. Movement can help stimulate your brain, stretch your muscles and shake off feelings of fatigue or tiredness.
Our Maplewood Senior Living communities want each resident to live long and joyful lives. That’s why we implement power nine practices into daily life through food options, social opportunities, and a wide variety of activities. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a virtual tour, please contact us.
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