Den Buettner is a man who has dedicated decades of his life to studying longevity, particularly focusing on the so-called “blue zones” – locations on the planet where a large number of centenarians (individuals who have reached 100 years of age) reside. I currently can’t think of a term in Serbian language for this (please let me know if you do; I genuinely can’t recall 😅), so I’ll refer to them as vekovnjaci.
Buettner endeavored to uncover the factors that contribute to people in specific regions living such long lives. Is it just about consuming greens and exercising three times a week? It turns out the story is a bit more complex, though composed of simple elements.
“Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones” is a mini-series consisting of four episodes where Den Buettner, as the host/researcher (and narrator), visits certain places on the planet where a significant concentration of centenarians resides. Through conversations with them, experts from those regions, his own research and statistics, as well as conclusions drawn, he attempts to discover the common traits that enable them (centenarians) to reach (and surpass) 100 years while remaining incredibly functional! This isn’t a tale of people merely reaching a century and eagerly awaiting death to end their suffering. This is a story of individuals who maintain nearly perfect health, good vision, enjoy their meals, sing, laugh, move comfortably uphill and downhill, ride horses, tend to livestock, play tennis, engage in gardening, or pursue various crafts!
Buettner will be visiting the following locations (some I anticipated easily, while others surprised me):
- Okinawa (Japan)
- Sardinia (Italy)
- Loma Linda (California)
- Ikaria (Greece)
- Nicoya (Costa Rica)
Throughout this documentary series, we’ll discover the importance of the amount of food we consume (I’ve been practicing the Japanese concept of hara hachi bu for a while now and am slowly but surely noticing the benefits). It’s also crucial to eat local, carefully prepared cuisine (you’ve heard how everyone says things like tofu, bread, and pasta are harmful… but do you know that the way tofu is prepared in Japan, as well as bread and pasta in Sardinia, turns these dishes/ingredients into healthier carbohydrates?). There are also the benefits of pure honey and herbal teas… and a glass of good wine helps too!
Ah, physical exercise… of course, unless you’re (semi)actively involved in sports, your alternatives are open or closed gyms, home workouts, or similar activities. However, centenarians don’t obsess about the idea of exercising because they’ve (consciously or unconsciously) incorporated it into their lifestyle. Daily walks to wherever something needs to be seen, picked up, bought, or done… working in the garden, tending to livestock, engaging in a craft or light sport… it’s entirely natural for them.
The sense of community is also a crucial factor. In this modern era of social media, rushing from one event to another (or simply ignoring them), and chasing after work, we’ve increasingly distanced ourselves from each other or formed shallow connections and friendships, even shallow groups… simply because we lack the will, courage, or time. On the other hand, centenarians love to connect in relatively small groups of people. Whether it’s a moai, volunteering, gathering for dinner and dancing, singing in a choir, playing simple games, or something else entirely. They form communities that support and socialize with each other in both good and bad weather (or times).
There’s also one of the key elements, which might seem logical to us (when we think about it a bit more) but we might easily overlook. The Japanese call it ikigai (you can read more about this concept in the review here), Costa Ricans call it plan de vida. You might have also heard the foreign term raison d’être. We can call it the “purpose/meaning of life.” It’s reflected in a simple question: “Why do I wake up every morning?” What is my purpose for existing, but not from a deep philosophical perspective, much more grounded and simpler. Something like “what is my inherent task that should pop into my mind when I wake up.”
We’ll also see that occasionally slowing down and stressing less helps (which city life inherently doesn’t allow, so you have to find ways yourself).
Buettner will also tell us how he tried to create a blue zone in the heart of America to improve the quality of life in a city and how that project fared. He will also delve into futuristic Singapore and why this location specifically has the potential to (somewhat unexpectedly) become a new blue zone with its infrastructure (but also a unique approach to residents’ health), and whether the U.S. can copy the Singaporean model (it’s no secret, at least not for a while, that they can’t, Singapore is still sui generis).
“Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones” is a series that is easy to follow and straightforwardly structured. We’ll travel through some vibrant places, meet interesting people, and see how they prepare simple food so delicious that it makes your mouth water. It won’t bombard you with complicated information; everything will be presented simply and directly, all accompanied by pleasant and unobtrusive music.
“Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones” is a documentary available on Netflix, and I recommend you take the time to watch it. In a sea of various series and movies (and YouTube), who has time for a documentary…
…but this one is worth your time…
And you, dear reader, would you like to visit one of these blue zones?
Den Buettner’s Website
Imdb | Rotten Tomatoes | Metacritic
Premiere: 2023 Format: Series (mini-series)
Number of seasons: 1 (4 episodes) Average episode duration: 40 minutes