RANCHO SANTA FE — Nestled inside the RSF Senior Center, attendees listened carefully on the topic of aging. Attentive they were, because the afternoon educational reception was named, “All the good that comes with aging.”
Sea Crest At Home hosted the special series. Its community relations specialist, Jon Schwartz, who earned his master’s degree in gerontology at USC, navigated the crowd on the upside of aging and ways to achieve it.
Following the introductions, Schwartz played a short video clip with celebrity, Jane Fonda. In looking at the aging process, it highlights the one thing that doesn’t have to advance in years: the human spirit.
“Jane Fonda thinks that as we age, if we could have this positive mindset, there’s no reason why it has to be aging,” Schwartz said. “I love this idea, to keep your spirit alive because that’s the only thing that does not decay.”
Within a culture of seniors with high spirits, they can achieve remarkable and unbelievable things, he said.
During the course of the talk, Schwartz referred to a book entitled, Blue Zone. The author, Dan Buettner, traveled the world to find where people were living longer and healthier.
He found five destinations which included Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; and, Loma Linda, Calif.
“And so what this man did in his book is he studied why are these cultures living longer, why are they living healthier than everywhere else in the world,” said Schwartz, adding how Buettner compiled a list of common things.
The first item on the roster was to move naturally. By no means did it mean daily visits to the gym. Instead, it was moving naturally throughout the day such as how farmers and mechanics do.
“I think in this country, in the Western world, we sit too much,” he said. “He [Buettner] says when we stop moving that’s when things start to break down.”
Having “purpose” was another common thread.
In Okinawa, Japan, the word for yes is, “ikigai,” which means, “For the reason I wake up each day.”
Schwartz said how important it is for people to have “ikigai,” something in life which makes each day purposeful and meaningful.
Another commonality in these cultures was meditation, a way to downshift.
“And then there is the 80 percent rule which means eat until you’re 80 percent full,” he said.
“A lot of these cultures didn’t eat all the carbohydrates that we do. They ate fruits, vegetables, and beans.”
Drinking a glass or two of wine a day was also noted. Especially in Sardinia, Italy, they grew, harvested the grapes, and made their own wine.
Another important factor in longevity and happiness was having a sense of belonging. Examples, Schwartz shared, were religion, a group, a community, or even family.
Schwartz also pointed out Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative in where they created a school for seniors at 65 and older. It’s a collaboration of intellect and skill.
“These people with brilliant minds are working together to solve major problems,” he said.
Issues they try to find solutions for include tackling hunger, shrinking classroom sizes, improving literacy and more.
Schwartz pointed out how he’d like to bring this idea that Harvard has here in San Diego because it is such an amazing thing. And we have exceptional minds right here in San Diego, he said.
Closing the educational reception, Schwartz voiced his favorite saying, Tikkun Olam.
“Tikkun Olam means we all share this responsibility to heal the world, to repair the world in some way that we see fit,” he said. “And for me, my passion and my purpose is to help keep seniors active, motivated and inspired.”