Felice Shapiro is a writer, entrepreneur, and publisher as well as the founder of Better After 50, a weekly online magazine. In addition to being a teacher and avid runner, hiker, and yogi, she is an AARP contributor.
Imagine living in a place that seems more like fantasy than reality…
Imagine living in a place where no one wears watches. They’re not needed because no one is ever in a hurry. You are invited for lunch and arrive whenever you feel like it, and are greeted with a hug and a smile. There is always someone to share a meal and conversation with-and every morsel of food is savored.
Imagine being able to nap for a few hours every day, sans guilt; You get your work done, but according to your own schedule.
Imagine being able to talk openly; having no secrets. Your evenings are spent drinking wine with friends-singing and dancing. You laugh, you dance often, you are filled with joy. And when day is done, you head to your simple bed and sleep until you feel like getting up.
Imagine your life having purpose, and at 85 or 90 still getting up each day to go to work: teaching cooking, or helping a young one with math, knot tying or painting. No forced retirement!
Imagine living in a place without crime, where there is no shame in imperfection because no one is pretending, where everyone lives in an open society.
My friend Lizzy emailed me an article about Ikaria from the New York Times and said, “This place is right up your alley. It’s the commune you’ve been talking about.”
She was right. I would love to be able to live like the people of Ikaria, but I don’t see that scenario working in this country. But then again, maybe there are some aspects of life in Ikaria that can work here?
I believe there are some amazing teachable findings from Dan Buettner’s Ikaria story that could perhaps help increase our longevity and decrease the challenges of growing old here in our county. Of course there are plenty of obstacles to Ikaria-style living. But how hard can it be to create an environment where we can eat well, connect with others and just enjoy life as we age?
Here are a few consciousness-raising ideas from Ikaria. Perhaps we should consider some?
1. How are we going to get rid of our watches? In Ikaria, “When you invite someone to lunch, they might come at 10 a.m. or 6 p.m. We simply don’t care about the clock here.” Imagine the chaos. I already run 20 minutes late, chronically, and the angst I cause myself trying to get to places on time is killing me -I’m sure of it. If I could try to put away the watch for just 24 hours and see what happens, who knows, my internal clock might kick in and I just might start arriving on time!
2. And what about the way they eat in Ikaria? Cleanly; fresh, seasonal vegetables from the garden. “A breakfast of goat’s milk, wine, sage tea or coffee, honey and bread” and then a dinner of bread and goat’s milk too, according to the New York Times story. How can we simulate that? In my previous attempts to eat “clean,” I’m sure I have shortened the life span of many a waiter… you know the drill: “I’ll have the salad, dressing on the side, with grilled chicken, dry. Obnoxious I know, and not very Ikaria-like. I know I can do better. I can eat at home more often and try to find restaurants that promote clean eating; menus I don’t have to “manipulate.”
3. Napping? “That regular napping- at least three days weekly- was associated with a 37 percent reduction in coronary heart disease.” Now there’s a concept. What if our doctors wrote a prescription for napping? Could we get away with it? Unlikely. But, I think I am going to practice napping this month. (My husband was thrilled at the prospect, which leads to number four).
4. Sex Habits. “80 percent of men between 65 and 100 were having sex regularly in Ikaria.” We may be a tad younger than those old geezers but if they can do it so can we; we are committing to stepping it up over the next month.