What would it take to make 100+ the new life expectancy of Minnesotans?  With our state’s reputation for healthy living, could we become known as the global spot that helps you live the longest?  And not only the longest, but the longest with good years at the end.

Twin Citian Dan Buettner recently wrote a popular article for The New York Times Magazine entitled: “The Island Where People Forget to Die.”  It examined the lifestyle on Ikaria, the “enchanted Greek island of centenarians.”  Ikaria sounds like a beautiful place, especially during a Minnesota winter, but could Minnesota become the state where people forget to die?

According to Kaiser Family Foundation, we have the second longest life expectancy rate, just behind Hawaii.  I don’t know how many centenarians we have, but the U.S. has about 72,000 in total.

The following factors seem to be working together to contribute to Ikarian longevity:

-          Sufficient rest

-          Easily accessible, healthy, tasty food (the healthy food there is also the cheapest) Minimal processed foods

-          Exercise (lots of hills, lots of walkers in Ikaria)

-          Social place (feeling of belonging)

-          Low crime rates (because people watch out for others)

-          Religious Faith

Buettner emphasizes the ecosystem on Ikaria supports longevity.  Ikaria has a strong sense of community and community behaviors that influence individual behaviors.  Many places in Minnesota  have a strong sense of community – it’s why we don’t leave.  Could we parlay that into record longevity?  I’m struck by the results of the Albert Lea “Blue Zones” project that mobilized community members in making simple lifestyle changes, leading to the following results:

-          Life expectancy increased an average of 3.1 years

-          Participants lost a collective 12,000 pounds

-          An average 21% drop in absenteeism by key employers

-          City employees showed a 40% decrease in health care costs

Pieces are in place to make Minnesota a place where people forget to die. Could the Land of 10,000 Lakes also become the global Land of Longevity?

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