A bridge near Okinawa

Build Blue Zone Bonds

Have you had the chance to watch the Netflix documentary series Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones? Host Dan Buettner gathers wisdom from some of the world’s communities with notably high longevity rates. While each episode provides valuable insights, the importance of community is one commonality that resonates with me.

🌍 Exploring Blue Zones: The Power of Community 🌍

In the Blue Zones, regions scattered around the globe where people live longer and healthier lives, one common thread binds them all – a strong sense of community. These places prioritize social connections, and it’s no coincidence that their residents experience lower rates of dementia and exceptional longevity. One study found that loneliness has a higher mortality rate than smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

The communal bond not only enriches our lives emotionally but also acts as a powerful defense against cognitive decline.

💙 The Community-Dementia Connection 💙

Research consistently demonstrates that social interaction is as essential to our cognitive well-being as a nutritious diet and regular exercise.

Two studies out of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health reveal that social isolation is a significant risk factor for dementia. “One possible explanation is that having fewer opportunities to socialize with others decreases cognitive engagement as well, potentially contributing to increased risk of dementia,” says Alison Huang, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior research associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Engaging with friends, family, and community members stimulates our minds, wards off loneliness, and promotes brain health.

In Blue Zones like Ikaria in Greece and Okinawa in Japan, daily routines often include gatherings with friends, shared meals, and a sense of belonging that is deeply engrained in their culture. These activities nurture mental acuity and emotional resilience, helping shield against dementia.

💪 The Next Step: Dementia-Friendly Communities 💪

This was very important to me as I was creating the Marama Experience. My assisted living facility Marama is built to foster a sense of community. We encourage residents to form connections and support each other. A daily schedule with group activities, including neighborhood walks, provides built-in social interaction.

Visiting a Memory Cafe is a way to provide a welcoming community for your loved one. These social gatherings are created for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, their families and caregivers. This Memory Cafe directory is a resource for U.S. and virtual locations.

There are movements around the world to create dementia-friendly communities so that those living with dementia do not have to remain isolated in their homes. A toolkit, resources and emerging communities throughout the U.S. can be found on Dementia Friendly America’s website.

Let’s be inspired by these Blue Zones and prioritize the bonds we share with those around us. Together, we can create communities that not only support those with cognitive decline, but prevent it.

As always, thank you for being a part of our community, and may the wisdom of blue zones guide us towards healthier, happier lives.

Dr. Heather Sandison

P.S. I’m attending the End Well Symposium 2023. End Well isn’t just another conference; it’s a transformative movement reimagining aging and the end-of-life experience. As one of my subscribers, you have access to discounted tickets and enjoy a full day of insights, breakfast, lunch, networking sessions, and a cocktail reception to wrap up the day. Click here to join me at the Skirball in Los Angeles, California on November 16.

P.P.S. I recently P.S. joined Dr. Dale Bredesen in a discussion around the revolutionary memory recovery centers of the future, and the paradigm shift they bring to redefining assisted living communities. You can watch the recording here.