How Active Adult Communities Are Tapping Into “The Blue Zones”

What can centenarians teach us about longevity? We’ve all pursued the holy grail of health, and vitality, logging hours at the gym, and following the latest diets - but what if the secret to pushing 100 is more than what’s on our plate? Dan Buettner’s book Blue Zones takes an insightful look into five cultures known as having the longest living populations - Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa Japan, Ikaria Greece, Nicoya Costa Rica, and a group of Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda California. Interestingly, the principles behind these Blue Zones are inherent to the lifestyle promoted by active adult communities, and why so many retirees may already be “in the zone.”

These Blue Zones prioritize a healthy (primarily plant-based) diet, they use their bodies to live - moving constantly throughout the day- and the piece of the puzzle many of us overlook in the quest for youth is allowing enough time for rest, and finding our purpose. When you think about what many active adult communities offer in terms of health and social engagement, it seems they’ve already unlocked the secret to a long, and healthy life making it more likely that today’s baby boomers will become tomorrow’s centenarians.

Many find their social lives flourish after moving to a 55+ neighborhood which isn’t surprising considering the number of social clubs, gathering areas, and sports facilities designed to encourage meaningful relationships and nurture a sense of community which seems to be the missing link in our fast-paced society. According to research, Sardinia Italy has ten times more centenarians than here in the U.S not just because of their omega-3 infused Mediterranean diet, but because they make time to laugh, and commune with family and friends. Lesson learned? Getting a group together for a walk, forming a bocce league or having a glass of wine around the fire-pit will not only expand your social circle but may also boost longevity.

One Blue Zones commonality is that each culture makes healthy living a lifestyle. Okinawans are known as world’s longest living population mainly because they’re always on the move whether it’s cultivating the crops that sustain them, walking everywhere, or spending ample time outdoors soaking in vitamin D. 55+ communities with community gardens and walking trails are already channeling the Blue Zones - focusing on incorporating wellness into everyday life. From the antioxidant-rich wine savored by the Greeks, and joyful outlook we can learn from the Nicoyans to Loma Linda’s Seventh Day Adventists who live to serve a higher purpose, their longevity secrets are the same. Stress less, seek friendship, and if you don’t already live in an active adult community, now might be a good time to pack your bags.

Buettner, Dan. The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest. National Geographic, 2012.