The Answer to the Question of Whether You Need Connections with Other People to Age well is a Resounding, ‘Yes’.
Do you ever have one of those days where you are feeling down and nothing is going right and then you go for a walk with a friend and then everything looks brighter?
There is a reason for this feeling.
Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking. Dozens of studies have shown that people who have social support from family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.
Conversely, a relative lack of social ties is associated with depression and later-life cognitive decline, as well as with increased mortality.
One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% — an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.
It is Important to Make time for Family and Friends
Make time to foster your most meaningful relationships. Choose activities that are most likely to bring joy to you and the people you care about. Delegate or discard tasks that eat into your time, or do them together with family or friends.
Evidence from the Blue Zone Study
Social connections were a key component for longevity as studied by Dan Buettner, the Blue Zone Guy. A blue zone is where there are more people that live to a 100 than in other areas.
I recently watched a documentary on blue zones and I did find it inspiring. Here is the trailer,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it-8MIm29bI, Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones | Official Trailer | Netflix, Dan Buettner
In his book, Buettner described five known Blue Zones:
- Icaria: A small Greek island in the Aegean sea
- Ogliastra, Sardinia: A region of an Italian island in the Mediterranean
- Okinawa: An island off the coast of Japan
- Nicoya Peninsula: A peninsula in eastern Costa Rica
- The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda: A community in the hilly valleys of California
According to Buettner, there are nine common features of Blue Zones and three of the features relate to connections.
Feeling Connected or a Sense of Belonging
Sense of community: Strong community ties promote longevity, according to Buettner. For example, Okinawans are known to create secure social networks that provide financial and emotional support to the community members.
Loved ones first: Strong family ties are the cornerstone of Blue Zones communities. For example, the Seventh Day Adventists live in tight-knit communities where children take care of their aging parents.
Social encouragement: Blue Zones centenarians live in social networks that promote healthy behaviors, thus making it easier to stick to a healthy lifestyle, Buettner suggested.
And then of course the other factors that we have discussing in previous posts: Physical activity, plant-based diet, good sleep, not overeating, moderate alcohol consumption, and having a sense of purpose. (Okinawans call it “ikigai,” and Nicoyans call it “plan de vida).
Strengthening Connections for October
Do you have friends that you have spoken to in a while? Reach out and say ‘hi’. Are there groups you would like to join? Or new people you would like to meet?
For myself, I have been reaching out to my nieces and nephews as it is such a pleasure to visit with them.
If anything, this past pandemic was a ‘wake-up’ call for me to how important it is to make time for getting together with family and friends. When it was taken away due to COVID restrictions, life was bleaker. I do not ever want to take this for granted again. Luckily, I had ‘A’ who is such a supportive husband and whom I love dearly.
So for this Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks to you dear friends for being a part of this aging well blog experiment and your support for my efforts.
Lots of Love,
 Op. Cit.