Longevity is often attributed to many diverse factors including genetics, exercise, attitude, environment, and diet, to name a few. And if you ask people who have lived 100 years or more what their secret is, you will get just as many diverse answers. From research in the Blue Zones, the areas on Earth with the most centenarians, we have learned a lot about ways to live longer through diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Take a look at what healthy aging advice centenarians around the world have shared from their own lives.
One of the most common traits of centenarians in the Blue Zones is that they don’t let their age stop them. Physical exercise is part of everyday life for them and while it may lessen over the years they continue to take walks, work around their homes and in their gardens and even participate in family chores like caring for farm animals. This worked well for then 104-year-old World War II veteran George Boggess, who offered his healthy aging advice to Washington’s Top News in 2013 stating, “I attribute my longevity to a great extent to walking, not being in the back of a car strapped down.”
Older adults may feel they have earned the right to eat what they want, but the evidence is mounting for a diet that is plant-based, light on meat, and free from processed foods. In the Blue Zones, diets like the one described in the blog, “Sardinian Centenarians Diet“ are full of homegrown fruits and vegetables, rarely include meat or fish, and are eaten with family and friends in a communal atmosphere.
This healthy aging advice was literally taken to heart by one resident of Loma Linda California, a Blue Zone: Dr. Ellsworth Wareham. With a life spanning 104 years, Dr. Wareham worked as a cardiothoracic surgeon until he was 95. In a CNN interview in 2015, he said he credits his great health and longevity at least in part to eating a plant-based diet and keeping his blood cholesterol low.
Having the ability to let go of stress and live a simple, happy life is another common denominator among healthy aging advice from centenarians. In the Reader’s Digest article, “What 12 Centenarians Taught Me About How to Live to 100” author Johanna Reed talked with centenarians in the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, a Blue Zone. Residents offer healthy aging advice including cultivating friendships, helping and respecting others, and generally maintaining a positive, even upbeat attitude. One went so far as to admit that her only worry was staying healthy enough to continue her daily work.
Embracing a faith is another key to longevity that centenarians in the Blue Zones and other places offer as healthy aging advice. The Forbes article, “7 Life Secrets of Centenarians ” notes that all of the centenarians interviewed said faith contributed to their longevity, including one 101-year-old woman who suffered the loss of her home by lightning strike not once, but twice, but relied on her faith to get her through. Research also shows that being part of a faith community is beneficial because it provides a sense of purpose and belonging shared by family and friends.
For example, in the Loma Linda Blue Zone, the Seventh-day Adventist faith is prevalent, and it advocates for vegetarian diets and spending time in nature, and discourages alcohol consumption, smoking, or illegal drug use. In the YouTube video, “A Centenarians Advice for a Good Life” Seventh-day Adventist centenarian Ann Bauer offers healthy aging advice about how to live well in the second century of life by keeping a positive attitude, caring for others, and staying faithful.
Keeping close to family is another bit of healthy aging advice. In the Blue Zones, centenarians share a close family connection that is thought to be part of the longevity equation. Multi-generational homes are common, and seniors share in family chores, care for family members, and join meals and celebrations.
For centenarians outside of the Blue Zones who often outlive many of their friends, maintaining ties with the next generations of family is a healthy idea. In fact, according to the Today article “Smiles and love: 6 rules for a long, healthy life from 100-year-olds” a survey showed 97% of centenarians believe family connections are important and 45% say they prefer spending time with family to anyone else.
At Sonrisa Senior Living our goal is helping our residents achieve a healthy, vibrant, and inspired lifestyle. To find out more about what we have to offer in housing choices and amenities or to schedule a tour, contact us today!