Healthy Aging Tips: Blue Zones and Keeping Socially Connected

Group of seniors, older adults, friendship, friendship residents in gazebo

What do healthy aging and your social life have in common? More than you may think. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control recently highlighted a 2020 study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) which found that nearly a quarter of adults aged 65 and over are considered socially isolated, which can put them at higher risk for a number of serious health issues. So how do you keep socially connected as you age? Blue Zones®, five regions in the world where people seem to live the longest, may just have the key.

Social Connection in the Blue Zones®

Blue Zones regions include Sardinia, Italy; the Greek island of Ikaria; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan. While they are geographically dispersed, residents actually share similar lifestyle traits that researchers believe help them to live healthier, happier and longer lives. These lifestyle traits are known as The Power 9®. Three of the traits pertain specifically to social connection:

  • Belong – Participate in a faith-based community of some kind.
  • Loved Ones First – Put family first in all decision making.
  • Right Tribe – Find a circle of friends that share your commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Keeping Socially Connected in Your Life

Some of the key factors contributing to social isolation include living alone, losing family or friends, chronic illness and/or hearing loss, as well as mobility and transportation challenges. It’s not that residents in Blue Zones don’t face these challenges as well, rather they intentionally make social connection a priority in daily life - and you can too! It’s easier than you may think with these tips!

Belong – In interviewing 263 centenarians, Blue Zones’ researchers found all but five of them belonged to some type of faith-based community. Not only that, their research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add four to 14 years to your life expectancy, and denomination doesn’t matter, just regular participation. In your daily life, consider:

  • Attending a local church or if you’re in senior living, many communities have religious services onsite. Many churches are also offering online services right now.
  • Participating in a bible study with friends or neighbors at home or in your senior living community.

Loved Ones First – In Blue Zones, aging parents and grandparents often either live nearby or in the home of their family members which, according to research, “lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.” Researchers have also found that residents commit to a life partner which “can add up to three years of life expectancy.” To keep connected with your loved ones:

  • Spend time together regularly with maybe a weekly meal, a family game night, participating in hobbies together, exercising together and when you can’t do it in person, there’s always FaceTime or Zoom.
  • Find a community setting like senior living where friends, neighbors and caring associates are always nearby, much like family!

Right Tribe – Research in Blue Zones has found that whether they chose or were born into their social circles, the connections of residents “favorably shaped their health behaviors.” In fact, “moais” is an Okinawan term for groups of five friends committed to each other for life. To find your tribe:

  • Look for opportunities in which to connect with your current social network or expand it such as clubs, classes, hobbies, attending local events, or even joining the gym.
  • Consider senior living; again, not only will you find a group of neighbors and friends right outside your door, communities like ours are committed to providing a range of opportunities to connect and socialize.
  • Include your pets – they can be part of the tribe too as they are not only great companions but also a way to connect with other pet lovers at the dog park for example!

For more information on how we apply these practices in senior living, download our Guide to Living Better or contact Friendship today to schedule a virtual or in-person tour by calling 540.777.7103.

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Friendship North Campus

367 Hershberger Road, Roanoke, VA 24012

540.385.8720

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5647 Starkey Road, Roanoke, VA 24018

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