Dan Buettner may have just found the key to immortality 

A pair of hands tends to a plant in a garden. Dan Buettner’s new Netflix series explores how gardening, among other things, may help sustain longevity. Photo by Karolina Grabowska

What kind of individual do you picture when thinking about someone who is 100 years old? I’m sure the last image in your mind is of this person dancing and jumping around or working in their garden. You probably picture someone constantly at rest— barely moving for fear of a life-threatening injury. As many people do, this person probably also lives in fear of death itself. 

Why would I take the time to ruin your good day with this morbid depiction? 

I asked myself that same question as I watched the beginning of Netflix’s new Original Series, “Live to 100: The Secrets of the Blue Zones,” hosted by bestselling author Dan Buettner. 

Buettner opens this series with some background on how he ended up on this mission of learning about the correlation between quality of life and age. He always asked himself questions about why some people die naturally at 60 and others at 100. Is there a specific diet people should stick to for longevity? Does geography play a role? What about history? This whirlwind of questions inspired him to go on this adventure and dive deep into “Blue Zones.” 

Buettner describes “Blue Zones” as areas of the Earth where the individuals living there have greater lifespans without even trying. This does not mean that people have curated a magical age-reversing antidote or strictly follow a specific lifestyle in order to maintain youth from within. Rather, longevity comes as a natural result of these people’s everyday routines. 

To help show just how influential these seemingly small differences are, Buettner makes comparisons between a Blue Zone and the United States in relation to lifespan. 

He begins his journey in Okinawa, Japan, and his first topic is the dietary differences between the Japanese and the Americans. In Okinawa, families recite a saying before every meal that translates to “80/20.” This really means “stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full.” With this saying, the Japanese have created a standard for themselves prior to eating so that they can fully indulge in every bite. Conversley, in the U.S., people tend to feed themselves until they feel sickly stuffed. Not only does this reflect an intake of unnecessary calories, but also a ruined meal experience. 

The second point Buettner makes is that nearly every family in Japan has a garden in their yard, which they tend to their entire lives. Anyone with a green thumb knows that gardening is a labor-intensive process, especially in harsh heat. Gardeners constantly bend over to tend to plants, consequently strengthening their leg muscles and improving their balance. Gardening also requires much hand movement. Continuously taking care of plants supports dexterity as a result. 

In contrast, in the U.S., many older folks often stay inside and only move around when they have someone there to support them. One of the leading causes of death for older adults in the U.S. is falls because this demographic has poor balance and weaker limbs. 

The Japanese don’t have a word for “retirement.” While they may not work in a traditional job after a certain age, they do still work in labor-demanding roles such as cattle-raising, farming, gardening and so forth. This persistent attitude allows their bodies to stay stronger for longer and in turn, give them a more fulfilling life by allowing them to be physically capable of more. 

Finally, Buettner comments on the difference in relationship building and maintenance between the Japanese and Americans. In Japan, people are constantly surrounded by other people. Friendship is valued as something that needs to be tended to every day, so it almost has a scheduled time block, making it an everyday norm. 

By contrast, Americans do not put as much effort into their relationships due to various reasons. While the U.S. is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, it is also the country with the highest amounts of reports of loneliness, further contributing to premature passing. All of these characteristics seem small, but they each contribute to an up to 15-year difference between the life expectancies of Japan and the U.S. 

The series goes on to talk about other Blue Zones such as Greece, Italy and Costa Rica. I recommend everyone watch this series not just to find ways to hang on to youth, but to discover ways to live a more fulfilling life. 

Rating: 5/5 

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