When my kids get scared about losing me, I say, “Don’t worry, I’m trying to live to be 100 years old. That’s why I always eat salad.” This relaxes them. Plus, it helps them understand why I constantly eat vegetables, which can be confusing to Happy-Meal-loving children.
The majority of Americans want to live to be 100, but unfortunately, life expectancy in the U.S. is 76.4, the lowest it has been in two decades. After hearing this statistic, I began to worry. It’s entirely possible that I may never become an adorable centenarian who knits blankets, grows tomatoes, and eats Werther’s Original candies.
Luckily, Netflix has given me a life plan to get to the golden century mark.
Live to 100 is a documentary that investigates day-to-day life in the “Blue Zones,” where, compared to the rest of the world, far more people reach age 100. The four-part series follows Blue Zone expert Dan Buettner as he travels the globe to uncover habits that keep centenarians ticking. Not surprisingly, the show jumped into the Netflix Top 10 right after its release on Aug. 30.
Folks, I watched this show and came to a realization. I’ll never live to 100 unless I change my parenting style. Seriously. I can eat salads and run marathons, but I’ll never achieve the coveted full century unless I modify my parenting practices.
Many of the wise 100-year-olds on the show have a family life that’s pretty different from my own. In Sardinia, ladies work together to cook meals, men are out in the fields with sheep, and families gather at the end of the day to laugh, play, and talk.
After sharing these idyllic scenes, the documentary notes that the stress rate of Americans exceeds the global average by 20%. This should be no shocker to moms scooting kids to school, appointments, and activities while squeezing in homework help and prepping healthy meals. Oh, and some moms have demanding careers on top of it all!
Well, the documentary gives a Blue Zone solution for stress. Here’s what it is: A 93-year-old man stands on a serene mountainside watching over his flock of sheep, and in the evening, he will return home to share stories and wine with friends.
So, what does this have to do with stressed-out moms? Everything.
“Today in our urban world, through social media and news media, we are brought all of the problems of the whole world,” says Mithu Storoni, a neuro-ophthalmologist. “These are problems you cannot physically control, but you can control how you treat your goat to make sure your flock is healthy.”
Ah-ha! I do not have any goats, but I do have kids — and I could definitely set aside my phone more often to pay attention to them. I can talk with them about their school day and their challenges, and even if I can’t fix everything for them, I can make them feel better by ensuring their time at home is safe and supportive.
Seeing problems you cannot solve across social media will stress you out. Instead, we need to actively take control of challenges, get social support, and adapt based on available resources. Called “active coping,” this tactic is amazingly good for your mental health.
In all of the Blue Zones, people have strong support systems and spend tons of time socializing.
One night, while making dinner, I watched as the families in the documentary played games together, exercised together, and cooked together. I looked up from the meal I was preparing and noticed my son watching TV and my daughter playing games on a tablet.
In America, most kids spend 5-7 hours on screens daily, and the number is far higher for adults.
At my house, there are days when screen time is minimal, but there are also plenty of days when my kids come home from school and watch TV. They’d probably have more fun helping me cook dinner, but I usually feel too tired to engage. Considering that 100-year-olds still have the energy to garden, play games, and sing songs, now I question whether I’m actually tired or if I’m being lazy.
Umeto Yamashiro, a 101-year-old lady from Japan, says, “Always have fun. Don’t get angry. Have fun with everyone. Make everyone happy.”
Perhaps the key to having more energy is trying to have more fun.
These centenarians are not sitting around at a nursing home; they’re living in multigenerational houses with their children and grandchildren. Before you say, “But I hate my in-laws,” consider this — there’s a phenomenon called the “Grandmother Effect” that shows households with a grandparent, children, and grandchildren have lower rates of disease and better outcomes in life.
“When you know someone needs you and wants you to be in their life, that gives you longevity,” says Lorida Medina, an active 84-year-old from Loma Linda.
If being wanted and needed can help you live longer, mothers are ahead of the game.
There’s no one on earth who wants me more than my 4-year-old, who likes to snuggle in the middle of the night. So, next time I hear “Mommmmyy” at 3 a.m., I’ll be springing out of bed with a new attitude: These nighttime wake-ups might give me bags under my eyes tomorrow, but overall, I’m a tiny step closer to 100. Maybe.