BLUE ZONES: Family first, an Italian affair
DODGE COUNTY BLUE ZONES PROJECT

BLUE ZONES: Family first, an Italian affair

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Trina Justman Reichert

Community Health Advocate

In Sardinia, Italy, one of the five original Blue Zones, multi-generational care and respect is still the norm. Elders are not considered a burden, but represent tokens of wisdom. They play important roles to the younger generations, helping their children and grandchildren. It is no surprise that their lives are rich with purpose, along with regular natural movement, help the Sardinians to live longer lives that experience less depression, suicide and stress. This hasn’t just increased their probability of longevity in “normal times.” Even now, in the midst of a pandemic where Italy is experiencing some of the highest numbers of coronavirus infections, Sardinia is nearly untouched. In an April 12, article from nextavenue.org titled “COVID-19 in the Blue Zone: What’s Helping Elders in Sardinia, Italy,” it gives one example of Maria, 87, and her husband Giovanni, 93, who live with two of their grown children and are active in helping cook and doing household work. In addition, “In Sardinia, like most other Blue Zones, very few of the oldest residents live alone in nursing homes, which are virus hotspots in the United States. Here, many families of two or three generations live under the same roof or within walking distance of one another.” Sardinia is also quite far off the beaten path, so their rural location certainly aids in less spread of the virus as they shelter in place.

Many people have talked about being ready for things to return to normal. Then, often, the conversation seems to take the turn to discussing perhaps what the “new normal” may look like. Maybe America’s previous normal wasn’t always working out that well. Maybe we were too scheduled. Maybe we sometimes prioritized material things over experiences. Maybe our pre-existing health concerns can be turned around with different food choices and by adding more movement. Maybe we can transition the virtual zoom calls into face-to-face coffee dates or happy hours with friends and cultivate deeper relationships that fuel our soul. Maybe we’ve rediscovered the value in worshiping within a faith-based community. Maybe appreciating things like home-cooked meals, growing our own food, having family game night, and having conversations during our after dinner walks have a place in our new normal. Maybe we can find space in our homes for mom and dad or grandma and grandpa and multi-generational living can again be a consideration. If living longer, better is a goal, we can observe examples, like the Sardinians, and choose to simply admire them or make changes to emulate them. If there was ever an opportunity to reset the dial, that time could be now.

Blue Zones Project is a community-led well-being initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through improvements to a city’s environment, policies, and social networks. Blue Zones Project is brought to Dodge County through sponsorship by Marshfield Medical Center-Beaver Dam, in collaboration with Sharecare, Inc. and Blue Zones, LLC. Dodge County is the first Blue Zones Project demonstration site in the state. For more information, email bluezonesprojectdodgecounty@bdch.org or visit bluezonesproject.com.

Blue Zones Project is a community-led well-being initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through improvements to a city’s environment, policies, and social networks. Blue Zones Project is brought to Dodge County through sponsorship by Marshfield Medical Center-Beaver Dam, in collaboration with Sharecare, Inc. and Blue Zones, LLC. Dodge County is the first Blue Zones Project demonstration site in the state. For more information, email bluezonesprojectdodgecounty@bdch.org or visit bluezonesproject.com.

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