Blue zones and beans – the secret of longevity

If you listen to podcasts, you may have heard a recent Ted Radio Hour episode dedicated to the secret of longevity. In case you missed it, here is a summary of what was said by the various experts on the show.

The human body is designed to last about 90 years. In western countries, our life expectancy is shorter than that. However, in some parts of the world, the inhabitants regularly meet or exceed that.

These areas are called blue zones. Researchers have looked for common elements in blue zones and found:

  • they eat lots of beans; and
  • the elderly are active and socially engaged, usually as members of an extended family contributing domestic tasks such as childminding, cooking, and maintaining edible gardens (no doubt growing lots of beans). They are respected for their age and wisdom.

Let us contrast this to our way of caring for our elders. Once we are at retirement age, we are commonly unlikely to be employed, and this only increases with age. Our aged care homes are heavily regulated to ensure the safety of our elderly. The product of this regulation prohibits or restricts aged care residents from doing many things including, in many cases, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and other basic domestic tasks. This often makes our elderly feel useless. Whilst we might all dream about doing nothing at all, it does not seem to make people happy or extend their lifespan. There are a few aged care facilities that have or are moving to models of care that are far more engaging for our elders. We applaud them for their efforts.

We hope change is coming that allows our elders more freedom to do what they want and be respected for what they have done so that they can live longer and better lives. In the meantime, eat more beans!


Until next time
Margaret Harrison