Blue Zone link between lifestyle and life expectancy played out at Tallgrass Creek
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Scientific research conducted by National Geographic and Dan Buettner identified pockets around the world where people live measurably better.
In these ‘Blue Zones’ – in locales such as Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece — researchers found that people who improve their lifestyle can look and feel better at every age and add 12 years to their life expectancy.
The Blue Zone is being played out daily at Tallgrass Creek retirement community in Overland Park, Kansas, where more than 300 residents are exercising, socializing and eating smartly in order to maximize their health and wellness.
Dr. Austin Welsh, the community’s medical director, did his fellowship in Geriatric Medicine at the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Honolulu where he first really noticed the Okinawan patients. Today he sees first-hand the way Tallgrass Creek residents are improving their quality of life in a Blue Zone mode.
Socialization, according to Dr. Welsh is a key component of the Blue Zone at Tallgrass Creek.
“It is both intergenerational and intra-generational,” he said. “Two or more people socializing implies a value, a worth the members of the group have for each other. This empowers people and strengthens their self-worth. “
Dr. Welsh, who was once a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer for drought relief in Botswana, points to the 100 resident-run clubs and the daily interaction between students and residents as a supportive of the Blue Zone.
“Our servers are high school students who relate how much they learn from serving our residents. They cherish the experience and our residents certainly enjoy them. Family visits are also encouraged with use of the Tallgrass Creek swimming pool by grandchildren.”
In addition, good nutritional programs under the auspices of Dining Services is key, he said. Lowering daily calories to a healthy level so as to maintain optimal weight is understood as a good thing and it is being practiced by residents.
“Tallgrass Creek allows those residents who do not want a loaded plate to have a smaller meal. Getting a healthy mix of nutrients such as trace minerals and omega-3 fatty acids is easy in diets rich in vegetables and seafood, as is available on any menu,” he said.
In some cases people are not eating enough before they move into Tallgrass Creek and when they start dining with their new friends they soon reach a healthy weight, he said. Also, Tallgrass Creek has a gardening club that brings in hundreds of pounds of local produce every harvest.
A wide array of fitness programs – everything from walking groups to water aerobics to treadmills — complement the Blue Zone found at Tallgrass Creek. “There is a lot of evidence Alzheimer’s and heart disease can be stopped with exercise,” said Dr. Welsh.