Successful Aging with Blue Zones® Lifestyle Traits: Part Two

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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In our last blog we started a deep dive into lifestyle traits in Blue Zones®, known as the Power 9®. We discussed how traits one through five – Move Naturally, Purpose, Down Shift, Hara Hachi Bu, Plant Slant – can help you to age more successfully. Now let’s see how traits six through nine – Wine @ 5, Belong, Loved Ones First and Right Tribe – can help you to do the same.

senior living guide to aging well

Recapping the Blue Zones

Blue Zones are five regions in the world where people seem to live the longest. Not just by a little bit either. For example, Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California happen to outlive other North Americans by an average of 10 years. Other Blue Zones’ regions include: Sardinia, Italy; the Greek island of Ikaria; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan. Surprisingly, residents in these regions share common lifestyle traits that Blue Zones’ researchers believe are a key to their longevity.

Lifestyle Trait 6 – Wine @ 5

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a 5 p.m., but people in all Blue Zones (except Seventh Day Adventists) drink alcohol regularly, in moderation.  Sardinian Cannonau wine is most often cited by these researchers and they also recommended drinking it with friends and/or with food.

In Your Daily Life: According to Healthline, the powerful plant compounds in red wine have been linked with a variety of health benefits, including reduced inflammation, lower heart disease and cancer risks, and extended lifespan. But there’s a fine line between moderation and excessive drinking which can be deadly. Limit yourself to one to two glasses a day.

Lifestyle Trait 7 – Belong

Blue Zones’ researchers interviewed 263 centenarians and all but five of them belonged to some type of faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t necessarily matter, just regular participation. 

In Your Daily Life: According to Blue Zones, research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add four to 14 years of life expectancy. If you’re in senior living, check to see if your community can provide transportation to church and/or if religious services are available onsite. In addition, you could participate in a bible study in your community or with your neighbors at home.

Lifestyle Trait 8 – Loved Ones First

Family comes first in Blue Zones which means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in your home which “lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.” Residents also commit to a life partner which “can add up to three years of life expectancy.”

In Your Daily Life: Our most important relationships can be the ones we take for granted the most in our overscheduled lives. Tips to reconnect and stay connected include: developing a routine that helps you spend quality time together during the week such as a designated family dinner night; take vacations together; plan family outings to favorite local places or have game night; simply disconnect from social media, etc. and make time to talk with each other; and be supportive whether it’s attending events, lending a hand or just being there to listen.

Lifestyle Trait 9 – Right Tribe

Whether they chose or were born into their social circles, the networks of Blue Zones’ residents, “favorably shaped their health behaviors.” Okinawans call it “moais,” groups of five friends committed to each other for life.

In Your Daily Life:  The National Institute on Aging reports that social isolation and loneliness are linked to increased risks for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and even death. To stay connected take advantage of technology to bridge the distance, look at local resources for clubs, classes and volunteer opportunities that fit your interests, and/or try something new like a hobby or skill to expand your circle. You might also consider getting a pet if you don’t already have one – dog parks and cat cafés are great places to meet new friends!

Blue Zones in Senior Living

Senior living makes it easy to incorporate all these traits into your life. For example, our Vibrant Living Program empowers residents to stay active, independent and socially connected through a lifestyle that includes clubs, classes, events and outings along with amenities such as pools, fitness centers, restaurant-style dining and housekeeping and laundry services.

For more information on how we incorporate the Blue Zones’ approach in senior living, check out our Successful Secrets to Aging Guide!

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