Hara Hachi Bu: How Blue Zones Use this Practice to Age Well

When it comes to healthy aging, quite honestly, there’s a lot to do. You’re supposed to make sure to keep your body active and your brain engaged all while maintaining your social connections as well. Sure, the benefits to your overall well-being are worth the effort, but retirement is supposed to be a time with less responsibility on your plate, right? Well, it turns out that in senior living you can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak. Here’s how programs like our Vivid Life make keeping active, engaged, and connected easy and fun! 

Benefits of Healthy Aging 

Good things happen when you focus on healthy aging. In addition to feeling better overall, which in and of itself is a win, other benefits of keeping active, engaged, and connected include:  

  • Improved ability to do everyday things ​ 
  • Reduced impact of illness and chronic disease​ 
  • Enhanced mobility, flexibility, and balance
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy level
  • Reduced feelings of depression and stress
  • Increased feelings of happiness and self-confidence
  • Reduced risk of cognitive decline 
  • Increased mental adaptability and cognitive reserve 
  • Improved memory recall and problem-solving skills 
  • Improved concentration and attention to detail  

How Senior Living Can Help 

At home, particularly when living alone, it can be hard to stay as active, engaged, and connected as you’d like. From lack of opportunity to lack of motivation to lack of transportation to mobility challenges, and more, it’s tough, we get it! That’s why we created the Vivid Life program in our senior living communities. It’s composed of three parts: Vibrant Body, Vibrant Brain, and Vibrant Connections. Here’s what each entails:  

Vibrant Body We offer amenities such as a state-of-the-art fitness center, a pool, walking trails, gardening opportunities, and even a dog park to help you stay active. A sample of activities includes:  

  • Walking club – Daily walks at different outdoor locations using pedometers to measure steps. 
  • Yoga – At least once per week for gentle yoga, and once per week for mindful breathing. 
  • Fitness classes – At least two times per week using a variety of hand weights, resistance bands, and circuit-type exercises. 
  • Tai Chi – At least once per week with a live instructor. 
  • Non-traditional exercise – Dancing, gardening, etc. at least two times per week. 
  • Physical games and sports – Golf, putting, bowling, croquet, bocce, and ping pong available daily with organized events one to two times per week. 

Vibrant Brain We offer monthly calendars filled with classes, events, creative arts, and enrichment opportunities to help keep you engaged. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Visiting lecture series – Twice per month with topics such as cultural, historical, local interest, career-oriented, etc. 
  • Creative art series – At least one per week with a theme that runs 3-6 weeks, such as poetry writing, storytelling, painting, digital photography, etc. 
  • Learning series – At least three times per month with an emphasis on learning something new such as foreign language, sign language, technology, hobbies, etc. 
  • Games – At least one time per week and may include poker, bridge, Scrabble, etc. 
  • Mindfulness – A meditation class once per week and gratitude discussion group twice monthly. 
  • Church service – At least once a week through visits by local churches. 
  • Stress reduction – At least once per month class that offers deep breathing exercises, nature walks, music appreciation, spa-type treatments, etc. 

 Vibrant Connections We offer resident-led clubs, social events, outings and volunteer opportunities for any interest to help you stay connected. A sample of activities includes: 

  • Outings – At least twice per month and may include going to concerts, art shows, museum visits, theatre productions, etc. 
  • Intergenerational programming – At least once per month and focuses on building relationships between young adults/children and residents. 
  • New resident welcome party – At least once per month to formally introduce all new residents, and includes ice breakers, social games, etc. to encourage connection. 
  • Philanthropic program – At least once per month provide residents the opportunity to give back to the community, such as volunteering for a local food bank or pet shelter. 
  • Resident-led clubs – May include game clubs, professional clubs, common interests, etc. that meet at least monthly.  

What’s more, it’s all right outside your door (or transportation is provided offsite) and all in a supportive environment with home maintenance, housekeeping, and restaurant-style dining freeing your time to make it even easier to stay active, engaged, and connected. 

Learn more about Vitality Living’s Vivid Life programs. Or find a Vitality Living community near you today to schedule a tour. 

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Have you heard of the Blue Zones? These are places in the world where people live to the age of 100 at ten times the rate of the average population. They live longer and healthier lives.

What secrets do they know that helps them age well?

Aging researcher Dan Buettner traveled the world in the early 1990s to find the answers.

Where are the Blue Zones?

Buettner and his colleagues from the National Institute on Aging and National Geographic identified four distinct Blue Zones:

  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica

Research in the Blue Zones shows lifestyle is the key to aging well, and that family history and genetics are only responsible for about 25% of longevity. There are the 9 Blue Zone lifestyle factors you can adopt to age well.

Depending on where you live, you will likely spend an average of $20 per hour for these types of in-home services.

Lifestyle Lessons Learned from the Blue Zones

  1. Physical activity: Blue Zone residents engage in physical activities they find personally enjoyable, and in most instances, that doesn’t mean spending hours a day at the gym. Instead, residents incorporate fitness activities such as walking, biking, hiking, swimming, and gardening into their daily lives.
  2. Plant-based diet: People in the Blue Zones pay close attention to their diet. Most follow a plant-based diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, olive oil, and whole grains. This Mediterranean style diet is linked to lower incidences of heart disease.
  3. Hara Hachi Bu: This phrase means you should eat only until you are no longer hungry. In most western cultures, people eat until they are full. While it seems like a minor distinction, the calorie gap between the point where you are no longer hungry and the point when you feel full is what helps prevent weight gain and obesity.
  4. Slower pace: Chronic stress is part of everyday life in many western cultures. It is linked to a variety of illnesses such as cardiac disease, obesity, and diabetes. Adopting a simpler, slower paced lifestyle can help you enjoy a better quality of life.
  5. Positivity: Maintaining a positive outlook on life is another key to aging well. Avoiding negative thoughts and teaching yourself to look on the bright side of difficult times can help you age with success.
  6. Purpose: Having clearly defined priorities and goals allows people to not sweat the small, unimportant stuff. This sense of purpose results in lower rates of stress which can help you prevent or delay illness.
  7. Relationships: Staying connected and involved with family and close friends is a priority in the Blue Zones. Close relationships help people live longer, more meaningful lives.
  8. Red Wine: Many people who live in the Blue Zone enjoy a glass of red wine each day. Some health experts say the resveratrol in red wine decreases the chronic inflammation in the body that is linked to illness and disease.
  9. Spirit: People who nurture their spirit experience lower rates of heart disease, depression, obesity, and suicide. It doesn’t have to be an organized form of religion, either. Research shows the body’s natural immunity seems to be stronger in people who have an internal belief system that guides their daily life.

You can test your lifestyle by taking the True Vitality Test. It will use your personal behaviors to predict your health and longevity. The results are confidential and will identify opportunities for improving your health and well-being.

Interested in learning more about aging well?

Download The Secrets to Aging Well. This guide produced by Vitality Senior Living will help you explore more of the secrets of super agers from around the globe.

senior living guide to aging well
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