The Fountain of Youth: Sometimes age just a number

This column is for readers who are 50 or older, or anyone else who is headed that way in the next 40 years.

I’ve been in various hospitals more than six times in the last few weeks, to visit and encourage friends and family. During this time, I happened to listen to “The Fountain of Youth” on the TED Radio Hour while I was weeding my garden. A neurologist talked about how aging is a disease that might be postponed and suggested in the future we might all live to 150 — or even 1,000.

“Hmm,” I thought and continued weeding.

Then Dan Buettner, a National Geographic writer and researcher shared his study of ‘Blue Zones,’ which are hotspots of human health and vitality and what they do that helps them live so long. In exploring these secrets to longevity, Buettner imparts a world of joy in aging of the largest groups of people who live the longest.

He explained that his research found that in ‘Blue Zones,’ the residents of Sardina, Italy, Islands of Okinawa, Japan and the Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California have similar patterns which include: (1) regular, habitual physical activity (no gyms necessary, but walking, gardening, hiking or chores), (2) eating large servings of plants (beans) and vegetables, (3) maintaining a sense of belonging, purpose and fulfillment — or feeling needed and having a purpose-filled lifestyle, (4) A group of friends, family, or in the community to build security, arrange regular social activity and make sure you’re regularly decreasing stress (and its effect on your body) in your everyday life. Buettner noted in his TED talk about longevity in Seventh Day Adventists:

“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. And the power of this is not that it’s done occasionally, the power is it’s done every week for a lifetime. None of it’s hard. None of it costs money. Adventists also tend to hang out with other Adventists. So, if you go to an Adventist’s party you don’t see people swilling Jim Beam or rolling a joint. Instead they’re talking about their next nature walk, exchanging recipes, and yes, they pray. But they influence each other in profound and measurable ways.”

“Interesting study,” I thought, as I wiped my brow with my gardening gloves.

The last TED speaker was author Isabel Allende, 73, who noted that we actually begin aging at birth and asked: “So what have I lost in the last decades? People, places and the boundless energy of my youth. I’m starting to lose independence and that scares me.” But then she shared what she has gained: “Freedom. I don’t have to prove anything anymore. I’m not stuck in the idea of who I am, or who I should be … I feel lighter. I do not carry grudges, ambition, vanity or any of the deadly sins that aren’t even worth it. It’s great to let go — I should have started sooner.”

“Sound advice,” I contemplated as I recalled a recent Twitter hashtag that I read: #younganddoing.

Here are my cheers to just a small sampling of Johnson County’s #matureanddoing:

Cheers to 68-years-young James Jarboe for driving the Ghostbusters car in the Johnson County Demolition Derby last weekend. What a fierce competitor he is. He definitely put on a great show along with the “youngsters.”

Cheers to Frank Hommel, 85-years-young for always entertaining the masses with his music. His newest goal is to “get back to dunking a basketball” after some upcoming surgery.

Cheers to Jane Bowman, married 52 years, for her unstoppable adventurous spirit which was seen as she took her Spanish-speaking self to Spain to visit her granddaughter Elena Ponder, who was studying abroad.


Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters.