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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Are You Connected?

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Group of adult friends around a dinner table in lodge in Michigan

What is the secret to a long and healthy life? The Blue Zones project was initiated to determine the answer to that question by studying commonalities among people who live to be 100 years or older.

What can we learn from centenarians?

The Blue Zones researchers identified 5 places around the world with the highest concentration of centenarians and discovered 9 common traits shared by these long-living populations:

  1. Move Naturally – living in environments that nudge daily activity

  2. Purpose – a reason for living – “plan de vida” meaning “why I wake up in the morning”

  3. Down Shift – methods to cope with stress, including: remembering ancestors, prayer, napping, and happy hour

  4. 80% Rule – eating enough to fill their stomachs 80% full and eating smallest meal last

  5. Plant Slant – basing diet on plant foods with meat eaten infrequently

  6. Wine @ 5 – moderate drinking, with friends and with food

  7. Belong – participate in a faith-based community

  8. Loved Ones First – keeping aging family members nearby, committing to a life partner, investing in children with time and love

  9. Right Tribe – with social circles that support healthy behaviors

Note how many of these factors are related to human connection. In a world where we appear more connected than ever with hundreds of “followers, friends, and links” we are also lonelier than ever before.

What is the impact of human connection?

Humans need human connection, not just digital connection. Human connections promote health and longevity. According to Dr. Emma Seppala, Science Director of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, high social connection leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity.

“Social connection” is a feeling of closeness and belongingness with others. Humans are a social species – we are wired for human connection and without it our health suffers in multiple ways.

How can we connect with others?

There are many ways we can connect, but one of the most common ways to connect is to share food and drink. Our family has been committed to family meals forever, and we still are, even now that our children are grown up and out of the house. Last night we ate an extended family meal at our son’s house and then babysat so they could attend our grandson's school open house.

I’ve shared in previous posts - What I learned at the table and Could eating together help us live longer - about our weekly visits to University Place in West Lafayette, where both of our mothers live. This week we were joined by both of our sons, a daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, and two great-nieces. All of the residents recognize us and appreciate our weekly gathering.

This week I also got together for lunch with four “old” colleagues from the Nutrition Science department at Purdue. The five of us try to get together at least 1-2 times a month. A little effort in staying in touch is so worthwhile!

In the picture above I am enjoying a meal with some of our closest and dearest friends in South Haven, Michigan, where we travel each year in October. We have been getting together with these friends to discuss a book every month for 36 years! This weekend our family is traveling to Madison, Wisconsin to reconnect with the couple who started the group. We may make new friends, but we keep the old!

Next weekend, we are hosting a block party for our entire neighborhood. One of our goals for the year was to invite neighbors over for dinner every month and host a block party during the summer. It has been so rewarding to get better acquainted with our neighbors. I’ll be sure to post a picture and blog about how our event turned out.

Who could you connect with and share a meal, an ice cream cone, or a drink with? Make connecting with others a way of life… it might just add years to your life!

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

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