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Tag Archive: aging

Jan 06

Living to be 100 and moving to a ‘Blue Zone’

Blue_Zones-mapPhoto Credit: www.transforminghealth.org

 From my archived columns, first published in The Examiner on January 21, 2010. The Examiner is a daily newspaper, Tuesday through Saturday, serving Eastern Jackson County, Mo.


“The best age is the age you are.” –Maggie Kuhn, founder of The Gray Panthers

Two friends emailed me recently on the same day with the same message, “Do you want to live to be a 100 or look and feel younger at every age?”

“OK, sure,” I thought suspiciously, “but why are you asking? Do I need to look younger?” I don’t think I want to know the answer to my own question.

“Take twenty minutes of your time and watch this video about Blue Zones,” they each continued in lock step.

Since they are friends and they were asking, I decided to check out the website and Google search Blue Zones, wondering where or what in the world they were.

I soon learned that “where in the world” was the key point. Blue Zones are indeed geographic locations; places where climate and lifestyle can help you live to be a centenarian.

If I recall my geography studies from high school correctly and that is a reach, there are temperate zones, frigid zones and torrid zones in the world. But what are Blue Zones? I am sorry to admit that I never heard of them.

I know of Red Zones, Green Zones, Orange Zones, and Purple, but not Blue.

Red Zones are easy–the area between the 20-yard line and the goal line in football. If you are on defense, better keep your opponent out of the Red Zone!

The Green Zone was in the news for years—the international area protected by coalition forces inside the City of Baghdad.

Then, there is the Orange Zone. It has something to do with making calls abroad with one’s mobile phone, but don’t hold me to that. I suspect fans of Tennessee football would not agree with this definition since they have a completely different meaning for the term Orange Zone.

The Purple Zone was a funky 2006 comedy that few people watched, and it is also refers to a football program at a small university in Texas, a newsletter, a store, a blog and who knows what else.

But, back to Blue Zones.

People who live in these zones live longer and are reportedly happier and healthier than the rest of us. They do not get sick often and can function for many years without dementia or pain.

Here are the five (and there are only five) such spots that scientists believe offer health utopia: Sardinia, Italy; Islands of Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, CA; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Icaria, Greece.

If I have to choose one of these Blue Zones, as my two email friends recommended, then I pick Sardinia, Italy, which sounds heavenly.

However, that was just until I learned that Sardinia’s 100-year longevity principal only applies to males who live alone in mountain villages and eat goat cheese.

The other four locations weren’t much different except for perhaps Loma Linda, and I have no idea why it is on the list. Loma Linda, CA file photo

File Photo of Loma Linda, CA


My friends asked if I was ready to move to one of these Blue Zones because they were ready to relocate.

“No, absolutely not,” I said remembering what Abraham Lincoln once said on the subject–“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

But I might visit Loma Linda.

Sep 02

You will always be you–what I didn’t expect about getting older

“If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
- Mickey Mantle

At a relative’s 90th birthday celebration, one guest asked the honoree, “Say, how does it feel to be 90?”

“I don’t know,” came his quick retort, “I feel about the same way I always have. How old are you, 35? So, how does it feel to be 35?” Then, he winked and smiled.

Ah, what does it feel like indeed, I wondered?

I guess as we age, we expect to feel ‘old’, but what I didn’t expect about getting older is that we don’t really feel that ‘old’ in our heart of hearts. Our bodies may feel weaker, but in our souls, we are still 16 or 25 or 35.

We are the same people we always were.

That surprises me.

I like what 90s journalist and essayist I.F. Stone said that surprised him about aging: “When you are younger you get blamed for crimes you never committed and when you’re older you begin to get credit for virtues you never possessed. It evens itself out.”

And so it does.

I was pondering all these thoughts (not too seriously you understand because keep in mind I still feel about 16) when into my email inbox pops my quarterly college alumni newsletter.

There to my delight were short essays from dear old friends giving updates about their lives, stories of family, career and retirement. What caught my eye, however, was a universal underlying theme—aging isn’t exactly what they expected.

I love my friend Connie’s story she titled, “It’s me.”

Connie writes that she is still the same person she always was, something she did not expect at all about getting older.

Here are some excerpts: “Honestly, I expected much of what has happened in the intervening years (since college). Arthritis and gray hair, after all, are part of the old lady uniform. Right? What I didn’t expect was that I would be pretty nearly the same person that I was.”

She reminisces:

“Back in the 60’s when I was a college student, we tended to view older people as significantly different from us. They just didn’t ‘get it.’ We—or, at least, I—thought that people changed as they aged. They do change, but not in all the ways I feared. I’m still Connie.

“Okay. I gained a lot of weight. My hair is white. I have had a knee replacement so I
wobble a little.

“I thought I would be cranky, judgmental, and anything but fun to be around when I got old. Not true! I whine a lot sometimes, but I’m not really cranky. And I’ve never been judgmental, so why would I start now?

“I’m the same inside! This is the big secret! You will always be you.”

However, Connie and I agree that the above ‘secret of aging’ should come with a disclaimer, a warning if you will.

Here it is: yes, it’s true you will always be you, but you will be an ‘old you’ before you know what’s happened!

“When I was young I was called a rugged individualist. When I was in my fifties, I was considered eccentric. Here I am doing and saying the same things I did then and now I’m labeled senile. ?~ George Burns (Just You and Me Kid, 1979)

Oct 07

Do you find yourself putting bananas in the laundry basket?

This morning after I poured my Cheerios into the cereal bowl, I noticed I had opened the bottom of the Cheerio box instead of the top. My first clue was seeing the box upside down on the counter with the bottom flap open.

Makes reading the cereal box at breakfast a little more challenging.

“Did I do that,” I asked my husband.

“Yes,” he replied reassuringly, “But we won’t worry until we find your car keys in the deep freeze.”

Perhaps, I should worry that my middle-aged brain is on an irreversible downward slide?

Maybe not, according to Barbara Strauch of Women’s Day magazine.

Quoting experts, she wrote a story recently about the hidden benefits of the aging brain, noting: “When it comes to most areas of cognitive performance, we’re at the top of our game in midlife, not in our 20s as many had thought.

Strauch shares an example about her online attempt at ordering a book by Paul Coelho, “The Alchemist”. She was supposed to read that title for her book club, so she ordered it at home. A few days later at work she thought, “Oh, I should order that book” (for her book club), and carefully typed in an order for “The Alchemist.”

Strauch said the problem is that the book she really needed to order was “The Archivist” by Martha Cooley.

As we age, we may also find that we unintentionally transpose the initial sounds in a pair of words or use the wrong word altogether.

Such as, introducing a friend as a “Eucalyptus” minister when we mean to say a “Eucharistic” minister.

Additionally, “spoonerisms” may begin to pepper our language much like they did for the good Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930). The term “spoonerisms” was named after him because he had a habit of getting ahead of himself with his speech.

“The Lord is a shoving leopard (loving shepherd)”, he would say to his parishioners, according to dictionary.com.

Maybe his brain was moving faster than he could speak. Happens to me all the time.

I often wonder when I make similar mistakes, especially when I type, if my brain is moving faster than my fingers or are my fingers moving faster than my brain?

The good news is, according to Barbara Strauch, “researchers have found out a great deal about what happens at middle age, which they usually define as somewhere between 40 and 68. Clearly there are some glitches. Remembering names gets harder and brain-processing speed slows down, making it harder to, say, learn to play the piano or focus on one track without getting distracted.”

What were we talking about again?

Oh, yes, our middle-aged brains.

Strauch says in many ways the brain is actually at is peak during middle age and stays there longer than any of us dared to hope.

Hmm. I’m not sure I’m buying that yet.

We all know what it is to have a half-warmed fish, uh, half-formed wish.

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