What is a Blue Zone Community?

The average American’s life expectancy is about 78.2 years, but in 2024 alone, over 70,000 Americans have celebrated their 100th birthdays! So what are these century-old adults doing differently than the average older adult? And what does this mean for the future of healthy aging in America and beyond?

This is the question that started the mission behind Blue Zones, an organization that helps people worldwide live better and longer. For over 20 years, their work has been rooted in the research behind the world’s longest-living populations in order to make healthier choices more accessible for everyone. 

While Uplands Village isn’t part of an official Blue Zone community, our life plan community in the Cumberland Plateau strives to implement practices and initiatives that promote healthy aging and longevity. It’s our goal to help everyone in our community live with purpose and find their joy so that they can live longer and happier lives. 

Power 9: Reverse Engineering Longevity

Blue Zones teamed up with National Geographic to find cultures known for being the longest-lived populations. This search resulted in five places that met this criteria:

  1. The Barbagia region of Sardinia
  2. Ikaria, Greece
  3. Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
  4. Seventh Day Adventists
  5. Okinawa, Japan

After taking the time to study these people and their daily practices, Blue Zones developed Power 9, or nine habits that proved to help these populations live longer:

1. Moving Naturally

Researchers found that high-intensity exercises were lacking within these communities. People chose to live in places that promote movement without having to think about it in a planned or forced way. For example, these populations grow gardens, live in walkable villages, and don’t utilize mechanical conveniences for home maintenance, leading to natural movement in daily routines. 

2. Finding Purpose

The people of Okinawa have a special word used in their culture: “Ikigai,” which directly translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Essentially, this is the practice of having a solid reason for living or having daily routines that provide fulfillment and excitement every single day. 

3. Downshifting Stress

Everyone, even people in the Blue Zones, experiences some form of stress; after all, it’s the human body’s natural response to many situations. However, the five studied communities do not partake in routines that lead to excessive stress and make a point of taking time out every day to practice some form of meditative self-care. 

4. The 80% Rule

You might have heard of the 80-20 rule in dieting, in which people stop eating when they feel 80% full during meals. The 20% leftover might be the difference between losing or gaining weight, and the people in these blue zone communities eat their smallest meals in the late afternoons and early evenings. After that, they don’t eat for the rest of the night. 

5. Plant-Based Foods

In each of the five communities, researchers found that beans, soy, and lentils made up the majority of diets, with meat eaten only five times per month on average. Serving sizes are also much smaller than what we might be used to; according to Blue Zones, the serving sizes used in these communities are about 3 to 4 oz. or the size of a deck of cards.

6. Wine at 5

Everything is okay in moderation, including alcohol. People in blue zones, with the exception of Seventh-Day Adventists, drink wine moderately and regularly. The secret to this ritual is to drink only one or two glasses of wine per day with good friends and delicious food while staying away from any form of binge drinking. 

7. Belonging

Research shows that faith-based attendance, whether at a church or a fellowship group, at least four times a month can increase life expectancy by 4 to 14 years. All five of the communities researched belonged to some sort of faith-based organization. 

8. Putting Loved Ones First

Spending time with loved ones on a daily basis not only lowers the risk of developing disease but increases longevity rates for everyone in the family. Committing to a life partner can also add up to three years of life expectancy.

9. Finding Your Tribe

The world’s longest-living people chose social circles that supported healthy behaviors and committed to each other for life. Research shows that loneliness can often be contagious, which is why it’s essential to find social networks that can positively impact daily life. 

Longevity at Uplands Village

As of May 2024, Uplands Village proudly has five residents over the age of 100 and 47 over the age of 90 – these numbers are incredible, and we like to believe that they serve as a true testament to the power of purpose in our community.

While Uplands Village might not be an official Blue Zone community, we implement many important practices on a daily basis to ensure that residents live longer and happier lives while promoting healthy habits and purposeful activity. 

One way we do this is by growing herbs, vegetables, and fruits in our Long-Term Care and Memory Care gardens; not only do residents and team members enjoy spending time in the garden nurturing and planting healthy foods, but everyone reaps the benefits by enjoying these delicious fruits and veggies in our community meals when they’re ready to eat!

Our community also utilizes the Eden Alternative®, which maintains that older adults needing care deserve to have autonomy over their daily lives. This philosophy also teaches us to look at senior living communities as habitats for human beings rather than facilities for the elderly, which has become a common and unfortunate stereotype. 

Through identity, purpose, growth, connection, and meaning, Uplands Village is proud to contribute to the longevity and happiness of those who call our community home.

We invite you to contact our team to learn more about our life plan community, and discover how we can help you or someone you love grow to your fullest potential!