Reading this article about Ikaria got me to thinking about the blue zone areas of the world. These are the geographic locations of the world whose populations enjoy longer than average life spans. It fascinates scientists to study these areas and postulate the factors that result in the longer and healthier lives of inhabitants.
In the New York Times article following a man from the United States who moved back to the Greek island of Ikaria after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, a certain picture of longevity factors is depicted. Ikaria has a thriving subpopulation of so-called ‘nonagerians’ (elderly that don’t seem to age) because of the close-knit community that pervades the society. Either due to the fact of being an isolated island, or influenced by a group of communist/socialists exiled there, or due to some other factor, the people of Ikaria seem to band together as one whole. The family units are mostly self-sufficient, and make ends meet even when the unemployment rates reach 40%. People work the land together, and enjoy good-quality food produced as locally as their own backyard. They eat vegetables, home-baked bread, and goat’s milk; they slaughter only one of their pigs annually for Christmas, and live off the lard for months to come; they fast on religious holidays to give their bodies a chance to rest and detox; they drink two glasses of wine daily to relax and socialize. All the neighbors know one another and one another’s business. In this way, the crime rate is low because people are afraid to shame their families. They operate together as one, big, happy ecosystem.
Other blue zones of the world include Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya (Costa Rica) and Loma Linda, California (US). Apart from certain food trademarks and being more in touch with the land and nature, all of these nations have a strong community component. Whether religious bonds, family traditions or social circles, having strong social ties and habits instills sense of purpose and belonging. Feeling anchored and centered in the community seems to give meaning to people’s lives and accounts for the longer lifespan in these places.