What is the key to living long, healthy lives? In todays lesson you are not only going to learn some great English phrases, but you are also going to learn how to live over 100 years.
The way we are going to do this is by looking at a Ted Talk video called, “How to live to be 100+” by Dan Buettner. The video is real English so those below an intermediate level may struggle with it a little. My advice with these videos is to listen and enjoy without worrying too much about the language.
Dan starts by telling us about a study that shows that the most important thing that dictates how long we live is dictated by our lifestyle and that there is a lot of confusion about what we need to do to live longer:
(1:03) Should you be running marathons or doing yoga? Should you eat organic meats or should you be eating tofu? When it comes to supplements, should you be taking them? How about these hormones or resveratrol? And does purpose play into it? Spirituality? And how about how we socialize?
After talking about some of the myths of aging he goes on to talk about how Americans aren’t currently living to their potential age of around 90 years old.
(4:08) So, if there is nothing you can do to slow your aging or stop your aging, what am I doing here? Well, the fact of the matter is the best science tells us that the capacity of the human body, my body, your body, is about 90 years, a little bit more for women. But life expectancy in this country is only 78. So somewhere along the line, we’re leaving about 12 good years on the table. These are years that we could get. And research shows that they would be years largely free of chronic disease, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
To find out how to live to over 100 years the team behind this talk went to some ‘blue zones’ which are areas where there is a high life expectancy.
The first blue zone was in the highlands of Sardinia near Italy where there are ten times more centenarians than in America. Their diet is mostly plant based but it seems that most important thing is the organization of their society.
(6:28) But the real secret I think lies more in the way that they organize their society. And one of the most salient elements of the Sardinian society is how they treat older people. You ever notice here in America, social equity seems to peak at about age 24? Just look at the advertisements. Here in Sardinia, the older you get the more equity you have, the more wisdom you’re celebrated for. You go into the bars in Sardinia, instead of seeing the Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar, you see the centenarian of the month calendar.
In the northern part of the main island of Okinawa lies another blue zone. This area again has a high level of centenarians and also has the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. Disease is low and as like Sardinia their diet is plant based with lots of colorful vegetables. They eat 8 times the amount of tofu as Americans.
(8:26) More significant than what they eat is how they eat it. They have all kinds of little strategies to keep from overeating, which, as you know, is a big problem here in America. A few of the strategies we observed: they eat off of smaller plates, so they tend to eat fewer calories at every sitting. Instead of serving family style, where you can sort of mindlessly eat as you’re talking, they serve at the counter, put the food away, and then bring it to the table.
He again stresses the importance of social structures.
(9:28) Fifteen years ago, the average American had three good friends. We’re down to one and half right now. If you were lucky enough to be born in Okinawa, you were born into a system where you automatically have a half a dozen friends with whom you travel through life.
He then makes the observation that Americans go through two stages in their adult life: A productive working life and then retirement. This group of people go by the word ikigai, which roughly translates to “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.” It seems that each person has their reason and continue to do for their entire lives, whether this is being a fisherman, being in involved in martial arts or being a great grandmother.
Loma Linda, California
The next blue zone takes us to California where a community of Seventh-Day Adventists (a religious community) live in and near to Loma Linda. They have five habits that explains their longevity, including their diet which is taken straight from the Bible. What’s also important is a period of 24 hours where they get away from everything.
(13:21) For 24 hours every week, no matter how busy they are, how stressed out they are at work,where the kids need to be driven, they stop everything and they focus on their God, their social network, and then, hardwired right in the religion, are nature walks.
The Common Features of the Blue Zones
- Exercise is built into their lives and not something that should be done in addition to their daily routine.
- (16:03) Instead, they set up their lives so that they are constantly nudged into physical activity. These 100-year-old Okinawan women are getting up and down off the ground, they sit on the floor, 30 or 40 times a day
- Each community takes time out of their day to slow down and get away from any type of stress.
- They all have a sense of purpose, something that gives them meaning in their lives.
- They tend to eat a plant based diet, but there is drinking and meat involved. Overeating is avoided.
- They live in communities.
- (17:58) And then the foundation of all this is how they connect.They put their families first,take care of their children and their aging parents.
The talk is concluded by saying that there is no short-term answer to living longer. It is all about the communities in which we live, which he argues is the most important thing that we can do to live longer.
Living the western world it is sometimes difficult to think about how best to live our lives as we are dictated by the need to be more and more educated and to be successful in our careers. If you are working in an office for eight hours a day or more then you aren’t getting the constant exercise that Dan talks about as being so important.
Many of us have started to introduce different techniques to try and help us balance out our lives including practicing yoga, eating a plant based diet, living in areas which have good communities etc.
But it seems that to really live a disease free life that potentially can last over 100 hundred years it is really important to be born into one of these communities so that your lives are set up in such away.
I think it tells a lot about our society that we aren’t living as long as we should, or that we aren’t as disease free as we should be. A lot can be learned from these blue zones and we can definitely take a lot in terms about how we can make changes in our lives.
Here are some tips about how to learn as much English as you can from the video:
- Listen to it several times over. Try not to focus on grammatical structures, instead just listen and make images from what he is saying, or look at the images shown in the presentation.
- Read the transcript while listening. Look up some words that confuse you, or better still, learn them from the context.
- Read more about the topic on different websites. The repetition of vocabulary will help your learning.
- http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_buettner_how_to_live_to_be_100.html - full transcript of the Ted Talk.