"A fish would not get into trouble if it kept its mouth shut."
"Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life"
Living a healthy, active life well into your 90s and possibly your 100s may be easier than you think. Author Dan Buettner (The Blue Zones, 2008, National Geographic Press) has traveled the world to meet the planet’s longest living people and learn powerful yet simple lessons that could put you on a path to longer life.
He found them in what he terms “The Blue Zones,” communities where common elements of lifestyle, diet, and outlook have led to an amazing quantity and quality of life.
Here are some secrets from four of the world’s Blue Zones: Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.
1. Get moving!
Keep an active lifestyle. Get rid of power tools and do it yourself. Walk more.
2. Make food look bigger.
Use smaller plates and cups. Sit down while you eat. Eat more slowly and focus on the food.
3. Eat four to six servings of vegetables daily.
Limit red meat. A portion of meat should be about the size of a deck of cards. Eat lots of beans. Eat nuts every day.
4. Drink red wine in moderation.
5. Learn something new.
6. Craft a personal mission statement.
What are you passionate about? Why do you get up in the morning?
7. Participate in a spiritual community.
8. Put family first.
I am pondering the lessons of the Blue Zones as I drive to the hospital to visit a resident named Betty. The University of Wisconsin Hospital is huge, more like a feudal city state than a hospital. I located the parking garage and find my way up to Betty’s room. The first thing I notice is that the room is very small, a glorified walk-in closet. Betty is not in bed; she is sitting in an easy chair and is dressed in her usual attire of white t-shirt, blue jean jumper, and white tennis shoes. We visit and I give her her beloved newspaper and her phone charger. And then it happens.
The door opens and in bounds an impossibly young doctor dressed in bright blue scrubs with a stethoscope hanging around his neck. He is Korean and speaks with an accent as he beams at Betty and pronounces, “Hello there, Betty. I am your har-sur-san!” Betty looks up at him seriously and says in her normal speech, “What is a (then lapsing into her version of a Korean accent) har-sur-san?”
Suddenly we are in a very bad, very unfiltered episode of Saturday Night Live. I am struck dumb and stare at the floor. The doctor, undeterred, decides to rinse and repeat, and says, “Betty, I am your har-sur-san!” Betty, equally undeterred, looks up at him and says in her normal voice, “Again I ask, what is a har-sur-san?,” the last word in her new Korean accent. This jolts me out of my temporary stupor, and because Betty is hard of hearing, I pronounce, certainly loud enough to be heard in the emergency room, “Heart Surgeon! He is your Heart Surgeon!” And then, impossibly, it gets worse. The doctor, still smiling, turns to me and says, “You are the seester?”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? OMG! You do not ask a woman who had her hair cut and colored the day before, a woman who is going to turn 56 years old on the very next day, you do not ask that woman if she is the sister of a resident who is 91! YOU DO NOT!
Trying to preserve what little if any dignity I have left, I respond with, “Yes, I am the sister.” (Please note I did not say “seester.”) “Our mother had us forty years apart.”
With that, I kiss Betty goodbye and say the only true thought in my head, “I have to go.” I charge around the doctor and out into the hall, half crying, half laughing, and hiccup my way past the nurses’ station. When a nurse asks me if I am all right, I can only answer, “I have to go.”
On the way home it occurs to me what I have to do. I am quitting my job, leaving my home, and moving my family to the Blue Zone of Costa Rica. There I will sit on the beach and drink red wine and slowly eat nuts and a steak the size of a deck of cards.
And oh, I have crafted my personal mission statement.
I AM NOT THE FREAKING SISTER!
About Mary Howard
Mary E. Howard has been a business professional for over 30 years. Her background is varied and includes experience in teaching, insurance, marketing, and business management. She has a master’s degree in English.
Although relatively new to the senior care field, Mary as an only child cared for both of her parents until they passed on. Her passion for caregiving extends to her job as the Business Office Director and a Senior Care Writer from Legacy Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin, where she also teaches a weekly class in current events.
About Legacy Gardens
Legacy Gardens is a short distance from downtown Madison, the capitol of Wisconsin. The Madison, Wisconsin Senior Living community offers safety, security and a truly joyful place that residents are proud to call home. The Legacy Gardens team is passionately committed to making our residents' lives happy, healthy, secure and active.