- Among the outcomes of the World Meeting of Blue Zones were the validation of factors that safeguard healthy, long lives, the creation of an information and research network, as well as the signing of a Framework Agreement between the institutions.
The path to healthy longevity is one that is under constant construction. Important strides were made along this path in Nicoya on November 16-18 at the World Meeting of Blue Zones, which are helping to determine some of the steps needed to preserve the five Blue Zones that currently exist in the world.
One of the core elements of this meeting was the International Scientific Forum, entitled "Positive Longevity and Healthy Aging". In this space, local and international researchers, scientists, doctors and demographers laid out their information at a "Blue Discussion Table", seeking to understand the similarities and points of convergence of the Blue Zones of Icaria in Greece, Sardinia in Italy, Loma Linda in the USA, Okinawa in Japan, and, of course, the host, Costa Rica’s own Nicoya Peninsula.
For the first time ever, the world's most prominent researchers on the subject of Blue Zones shared their knowledge and most recent research. The distinguished list included pioneering researchers on this subject: Michel Poulain of Belgium, Dr. Gianni Mario Pes and Paolo Francalacci from Sardinia, Italy, Christina Chrysochoou from Icaria, Greece, Makoto Suzuki from Okinawa, Japan, Gina Siapco from Loma Linda, USA, and Diego Bernardini from Argentina.
The international attendees also included Dan Buettner, a reporter and researcher for National Geographic, who has been responsible for popularizing the concept of Blue Zones through the publication of various articles and best-selling books that explore the direct connection between this issue and diet, spirituality, purpose in life and physical exercise, with happiness as a cross-cutting element.
Results were also shared from the research carried out by the demographer Luis Rosero and Dr. Elizabeth Lopez, both from Costa Rica, who made significant contributions on the subject of healthy longevity. The occasion was also used to release the most recent study on longevity by the Institute of Social Studies in Population (Instituto de Estudios Sociales en Población, IDESPO) at the National University of Costa Rica.
According to Fernando Montero, general coordinator of the International Scientific Forum of the World Meeting of Blue Zones, "the experience was highly satisfying, because we were able to get at relevant commonalities on how healthy longevity can be the result of looking at people from a complete, holistic perspective, examining their spirituality and the way they live with other people, good food, hours spent sleeping, as well as the importance of having clear goals and determining what creates happiness, with the family as a fundamental pillar for the integration of different generations."
A Meeting with Tangible Results
All of the international experts agreed that the factors that make healthy longevity possible must be communicated worldwide, in order to reflect on the implications of Blue Zones, unique geographical areas with a high concentration of inhabitants who live to ninety or one hundred years of age, whose aging process is positive, and most importantly, deliberate and active.
Arising from this need, one of the results of the meeting was the establishment of an International Network on Healthy Aging, which will be led from Costa Rica in order to "build knowledge collaboratively", said Montero. Certain common characteristics were also established in order to determine whether additional global Blue Zones could be added in the near future.
The reporter Dan Buettner closed by saying "it is a great honor to see the results of the idea of researching the issue of longevity that emerged fifteen years ago is coming to fruition in the meeting of the major scientific researchers on the subject of Blue Zones." He added that "we must somehow emulate, duplicate or copy the lifestyle of centenarians, and their way of living, but above all, their environment, diet, activity; above all, the connections they make, human connections, not technological ones."
For Belgian researcher Michel Poulain, one of the most important message of the World Meeting of Blue Zones is to tell the world that "Costa Rica has a treasure of longevity in the Nicoya Peninsula, that comes from the past generations, which has been built year by year. This treasure includes the atmosphere around you." He finished, stating emphatically "please keep it and put the new generation on the same line in the treasure of this Blue Zone."
In parallel, and with the aim of generating public policies, a Framework Cooperation Agreement was signed to establish, promote and support the Blue Zone in the Nicoya Peninsula. The sustainable and equitable promotion of the long-living population of seniors and the establishment of a cultural agenda aimed at strengthening sustainable, rural, community tourism stood out among the commitments made. These commitments also included mechanisms to develop best practices in health promotion in the "five blue cantons" of the Peninsula, strengthening support networks, and incentivizing the recuperation of life lessons and traditions.
The agreement was signed by the Vice President of Costa Rica, Ana Helena Chacón, as well as ministries and institutions of the government and the mayors of the cantons of Nicoya Peninsula: Nandayure, Hojancha, Carrillo, Santa Cruz and Nicoya. "This meeting commits us to preserve this Blue Zone, but most importantly, it should have a multiplier effect and serve as an example for the other cantons of the country" said Ana Monge, Commissioner of the Presidential Social Council of the Government of Costa Rica.
The World Meeting of Blue Zones laid the groundwork, in a spirit of sí se puede (yes we can), envisioning a blue Costa Rica, following the example of healthy habits set by more than 900 inhabitants aged 90 or older, and 43 centenarians in Nicoya Peninsula. They have been able to exceed their life expectancy and serve as an example for the entire world. Without a doubt, this is a challenge for the next generations, in the context of the world's age pyramid turning upside down, with ever more senior citizens.