Vital aging is maintenance of optimal health, function of body and mind, and well-being throughout life free of the impairments to health that plague most people as they age.
We are bombarded with marketing intended to make us believe we can anti-age and live well into a second century of life if we buy and consume enough sophisticated, invasive, and expensive healthcare and selfcare stuff.
Hormone replacement, oxygen therapy, stem cell therapies, exotic potions and lotions – all we have to do is consume ourselves into robust health and youthfulness. But, what if the idea of buying your ticket into agelessness just took you further and further away from a life essentially free of the limitations of aging that most people assume are inevitable?
There is little proof/evidence that anti-aging product consumerism lives up to its promises. And, there is vast proof of societies around the world producing long lives that are essentially free of the ravages of old age commonly seen in our society.
These have been called ‘blue zones” – geographic areas in which people have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than elsewhere – Okinawa, Sardinia, Icaria in Greece, Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, and Loma Linda in the USA.
The scientific observation of these groups shows that they display rectangularization of their survival curve – they tend to live free of physical and mental limitations and illnesses until shortly before they die at an advanced age.
These zones around the world represent traditional societies that normally produce people who live into their 80s, 90s, and even 100s without the diseases we consider inevitable in the US, while living independent and productive lives actively involved in their communities – living the example of vital aging.
What are the common denominators in these societies that produce vital aging? Eating a mostly plant-based diet – while all blue zone societies consume animal fat and protein in their diet, even if only in the form of eggs and milk products, their diet is mostly whole vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, oils, spices, and small amounts of fruit.
Moderate eating (and fasting) – there tends to be a culture of stopping eating when less than 100% full, eating slowly – often while enjoying good company, and fasting periodically.
Moderate alcohol consumption – it is common for these cultures to consume wine, beer, and even spirits moderately.
Exercise is a natural part of daily life – these cultures are physically active by walking, farming, gardening, fishing, crafting, building, dancing…
Respect for sleep and rest – there is a natural cadence to their lives.
Have a sense of mission/purpose – they know why they get up in the morning and they tend to be clear how they serve others.
Staying involved in social networks – their lives tend to be rich in relationships and emotional and intellectual interaction. Living and relating with younger generations – old and young relate together naturally.
These factors for aging with vitality are available for any of us to incorporate into our lives – proven over millennia and free!