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19 Jun
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Safety Council

Engage Estero Safety Council is made of volunteers serving as a voice for the citizens of greater Estero on safety and transportation priorities and issues. We advocate for related solutions to Village, County, and State Government organizations.

Latest news…
Driving Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility!

Driving Safety is Everyone’s Responsibility!

One of the major causes of vehicular accidents is distracted driving. We have entered the “100 Deadliest Days” - the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day when fatal teen crashes increase dramatically. Parents are the best line of defense to ensure a safe ride!...

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Corkscrew Road: What is going on, and when?

Corkscrew Road: What is going on, and when?

Corkscrew Road: What is going on, and when? (Written by Mark Novitski, Consultant to Engage Estero) Updated May 2024 Corkscrew Road Updates Corkscrew Road Widening – Jump to: Ben Hill Griffin to the East side of Bella Terra East side of Bella Terra to Alico Road Three...

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Environment Council

Engage Estero Environment Council is a volunteer group focusing on improving water and air quality and mitigating and eliminating the effects of climate warming in greater Estero.

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Health Council

Engage Estero Community Health Council comprises health* and safety-minded volunteers who think about community health comprehensively with a common desire to improve the overall health of the citizens of greater Estero.

Latest news…
The “Skinny” On Obesity

The “Skinny” On Obesity

By Robert P. Belin, M.D. Chairperson, Health and Wellness Breckenridge, Golf and Tennis Club, and member of Engage Estero’s Health Council For the first time, the FDA has approved medication for weight loss! So, why is this important and in the news non-stop? It’s...

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Education Council

Engage Estero mobilizes volunteers in our schools, sponsors scholarships, and promotes the involvement of the community through announcements and public forums.

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Updates on Issues of Impact

Engage Estero believes the best way to get a community involved is to make sure they are aware of the issues impacting their future, and know how to impact those decisions before they are made. We conduct and publish original research and articles aimed at getting residents Engaged.

What helps to enhance Longevity?

Lead Estero

During the recent Engage Estero Community Meeting on January 25th at the Estero Recreational Center, Jodi Walborn, Blue Zones, and Policy Lead discussed the thought-provoking but realistic insight into what we can do to increase our life expectancy and quality of life.

Those who may have seen the short Netflix series, “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones” will have been intrigued by the information discussed. Blue Zones are specific locations in different parts of the world where people live extended lives, consistently reaching the age of 100.

In contrast, according to the CDC, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 77 years: Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer, identified five such Blue Zones. He explained, “And it’s not just about longer lives; it’s about healthier ones, too,” says Caitlin McAfee, a wellness dietitian at Houston Methodist. “People living in Blue Zones are also much less likely to suffer from chronic illnesses.

Jodi explained that several commonalities could be seen when each location was examined in detail. These are summarized below.

longevity<br />
Move Naturally

#1 MOVE NATURALLY

The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons, or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.

TIPS:

Make Movement the Norm:

  • Ride your bike instead of driving.
  • Walk to the store.
  • Get up and go for short walks through the day

Gardening: Gardening is a great way to be physically active daily while reducing stress. It involves many movements that may improve flexibility, strength, endurance, and balance. Plus, you reap the benefits of having plenty of fresh veggies!

Make things from scratch! Spend time in the kitchen making fresh bread and meals. Not only does this keep you moving, but it gives you healthier options to eat!

Strengthen Your Social Connections: Getting active is more fun when you have company. Establish a regular time to walk/run/swim/paddle/hike with your “moai” – a group of lifelong friends

Inconvenience Yourself in small ways:

  • get up to change the TV channel
  • take the stairs when possible
  • park at the far end of the parking lot at work or if you took the car to go shop

2. PURPOSE

Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to 7 years of extra life expectancy. The Okinawans call it “ikigai,” and the Nicoya’s call it “plan de vida”—for both, it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.”

Your purpose is made up of:

  • Your values
  • Passions
  • Gifts
  • Talents
  • What are the things you like to do and the things you don’t
  • Incorporating your skills into action in ways that will add meaning to your life and the lives of others.

TIPS:

  • Explore your passion and interests: find something that you can enjoy and pursue it
  • Spend time with people who inspire you and use each other’s positive energy and motivation to strive forward
  • Read: this can help expand your mental horizons and improve empathy
  • Join a cause: social justice, animal welfare, or environmental are broad categories, and then we get started.
  • Practice self-acceptance: instead of beating yourself up about failures, try to turn them into opportunities
  • Develop a growth mindset and constantly grow and better yourself: ex. Embrace challenges as opportunities & accept feedback and criticism.
  • Create your own personal vision statement, which can help maintain balance in your life and serve as a road map
  • Prioritize your family and friends: connecting with others will contribute a greater sense of meaning to your life
  • Practice gratitude: ex. Having a positive mindset and Giving Back, like volunteering
  • Be part of a community. Be more involved in your neighborhood (ex., meeting neighbors or going to neighborhood events) or a group related to your interests (ex., book clubs, golf or tennis groups)
Purpose
Move Naturally

#3 Downshift

Stress leads to chronic inflammation associated with every major age-related disease.

  • Adventists pray
  • Others take a nap
  • Sardinians do happy hour

What is your stress relief?

 

TIPS:

  • Take a leisurely walk
  • Call a friend
  • Hug a loved one or a pet
  • Spend an hour with no electronics
  • Play!
  • Watch a sunrise or sunset
  • Volunteer
  • Learn something new… take a class online or at a local library, school, etc.
  • Be creative- draw, paint, or even color in a coloring book
  • Practice breathing techniques- inhale through your nose and out through your mouth (ex., Like you’re blowing through a straw)
  • Practice gratitude; consider keeping a journal
  • Practice your faith; pray
  • Eat simple, well-balanced meals
  • Read a book
  • Play a board game
  • Make time to do activities you enjoy
  • Set a daily routine (ex., setting a consistent time to go to bed and to wake up)
  • Practice meditation and yoga
  • Listen to relaxing music (ex. Lofi- music with no words)
  • Make your bed / or clean your house

4. 80% RULE

Saying “Hara hachi bu,” the 2,500-year-old Confucian mantra, before meals reminds Okinawans to stop eating when their stomach is 80% full.

 

TIPS:

  • Eat More Slowly. Eating faster results in eating more. Set your fork/spoon down between bites. Slow down to allow your body to respond to cues, which tell us we are no longer hungry.
  • Set the fork/spoon down between bites. chew them thoroughly and finish one bite before moving on to the next. Don’t let yourself go for another bite until your mouth is empty of the current one.
  • Examine the food as you are eating it. Take in the sight, smell, flavors, and feel. What do you appreciate about each bite?
  • Focus on food. If you’re going to eat, just eat. You’ll eat more slowly, consume less, and savor the food more.
  • Start with the veggies. Fill Up on Low Calorie, Fiber, and nutrient-dense food first
  • Stay Hydrated. Drink water, not calorie-laden drinks, all day. Thirst is often confused with hunger, resulting in overeating.
  • Eat, Don’t Multitask: Challenge yourself to eat without distractions, such as TV, electronic screens, or eating while you work. Studies show doing two things at once inhibits concentration and awareness.
  • Use small vessels. Choose to eat on smaller plates and use tall, narrow glasses. You’re likely to eat significantly less without even thinking about it.
  • Smaller plate. Larger plates give the impression that they need to be completely covered.
  • Smaller bites. Don’t overload the fork/spoon until it’s heaping.
  • For dining out, ask for half the meal packaged in a To-go container when you order. Avoid Buffets
Purpose
Plant

#5 PLANT SLANT

People in the blue zones eat an impressive variety of garden vegetables when they are in season, and then they pickle or dry the surplus to enjoy during the off-season. The best-of-the-best longevity foods are leafy greens such as spinach, kale, beet and turnip tops, chard, and collards. Combined with seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans dominate Blue Zone meals year-round. Beans, greens, yams, sweet potatoes, fruits, nuts, and seeds should all be favored.

Research suggests that 30-year-old vegetarian Adventists will likely outlive their meat-eating counterparts by as many as eight years.

 

TIPS:

  • Not a vegan diet
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • The cornerstone of most centenarian diets is beans, favorites including fava, black, soy, and lentils.
  • Meat as a special treat
  • Eat more nuts — a handful a day can give you an extra 2-3 years of life expectancy!
  • Plan for one extra plant-based meal per week (ex. Meatless Monday)
  • Eat one meal every day that has very little to no animal products
  • Plan a meal around plants rather than meat
  • Blend fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables into your smoothies
  • Throw some grated zucchini into oatmeal or baked goods – this adds more fiber to your diet
  • Replace some (or all) of the meat in your burgers with beans or mushrooms – this adds more protein to the meal without losing a “meaty” texture
  • Enjoy fresh fruit or nuts as a snack
  • Shop at your local farmer’s market to find the freshest produce rather than your general grocery store
  • Prep and chop your fruits and vegetables ahead of time so that they’re ready to go any time you want
  • Add cashews into any sauce, soup, dressing, or dip recipe- it adds a creamy consistency
  • Incorporate veggie noodles into your normal pasta dishes (ex. zucchini, sweet potato, squash)
  • You can wilt a handful of spinach, kale, or other greens into any sauce or soup
  • Try eating a green side salad or veggie appetizer before eating your dinner
  • Make some meals in bulk and store them in the freezer- that way, you have healthier meals on hand
  • If you are worried about fruit going bad before you can consume it, buy frozen fruits and vegetables for longer shelf life
  • Grill fruits and vegetables with your meat or fish
  • Opt for a whole meal or wholegrain breads, cereals, rice, and pasta where possible
  • Buy plant foods that you love and not the ones you think you “should”
  • Consistency is key, so set a routine of having healthier items in your diet (ex. snack time or mealtimes)
  • Find a balance. You don’t have to have every meal be “so healthy.” Look to balance out any unhealthier items by adding more plants/nuts to your diet
  • To increase veggie consumption, use cauliflower rice vs. white rice or pasta in dishes

6. FRIENDS AT FIVE

In the original blue zones, five longevity hotspots worldwide, socializing with friends is an important part of life. Okinawans have moais, groups of people who travel through life together. Sardinians finish their days at a local bar, chatting with friends they’ve known all their lives—and Adventists potluck.

  • Formerly Wine at 5
  • Wine has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers as well as slow the progression of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
  • If you don’t drink alcohol, grab coffee or a healthy smoothie with a friend.

TIPS:

  • Make a regularly scheduled day and time to meet up. Grab your favorite beverage and just enjoy the company
  • Plan Activities where the conversation is easy. Playing cards, walking, or an art class
  • Avoid multitasking and just be present in the moment. This isn’t the time to work or plan your week. This is the time to decompress and not worry about the next task to be done.
  • Spend more time connecting with people in person. Adults who have regular face-to-face interactions tend to be happier and have better mental health
  • Join a club that meets regularly and offers the opportunity for discussion and laughter
  • Get a partner or a group to go for a daily walk first thing in the morning or after dinner for a daily dose of endorphins and stress relief
Purpose
Belonging

7. BELONG

Belonging to a faith-based or shared-belief community and actively participating in that belief four times monthly can add 4-14 years of life expectancy.

 

TIPS:

  • Find the right fit to incorporate the Blue Zones Power 9 concept of Belong in your life, start by finding the right fit. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations if you’re not connected with a faith-based or shared belief community.
  • Volunteer or help others. If you don’t have a faith community, that’s okay. Another way to feel connected to your spirituality and faith is to find a cause that matters to you and to give back. You can work at a food pantry, become a mentor or tutor, or foster an animal. Doing so can grow your community and connect you with like-minded people. Helping others will also give you a sense of purpose and gratitude.
  • Practice yoga. You don’t have to be a yogi to gain the spiritual benefits of the practice. Yoga is for everyone at any level. Besides strengthening and stretching your body, it can help your mind and spirit—reducing symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety.
  • Meditate Meditation is one of the easiest practices to maintain because it requires little time. “Some people think you have to sit and be quiet, but that’s not true,” Wester said. “You can walk and meditate, being mindful of how your feet feel on the ground or the details of your surroundings. Just the practice of slowing your body down can help slow your brain down.”
  • Keep a journal. The act of writing can help you process your emotions, increase your awareness, and give you a nonjudgmental space to express your feelings in the moment. Write down your worries and fears, or start a daily gratitude journal with prompts.
  • Spend time in nature. Whether you live in the mountains, the desert, or near the beach, spending time in nature can boost your spiritual health. You can’t help but disconnect from your phone, your day, and your troubles. Even just a few minutes of watching the birds, the trees swaying in the wind, or the crashing waves on the shoreline can be therapeutic.
  • Be honest and present. Once you’ve met people you want to connect with, practice being brave enough to be open about that with them.

8. LOVED ONES FIRST

Happy, healthy centenarians in the Blue Zones areas put their families first. This can take shape in many ways, from keeping your aging parents and grandparents in or near your home to being in a positive, committed relationship, which can add up to 6 years of life expectancy.

TIPS:

  • Eating family dinners together is a great chance to turn off the TV and chat about everyone’s day over a healthy meal.
  • Get moving together. After dinner, take a walk or go on a bike ride. If you have younger children, visit your local park or playground. Or play a game of tag, Frisbee, or hide-and-seek in your own backyard.
  • Share your family history. Children love stories about when their parents were young, like the time Mommy got stuck in the apple tree or when Daddy woke up at 3:00 a.m. because he couldn’t wait for Christmas morning. Display pictures of family members on a wall in your home so the kids are familiar with extended family members.
  • Involve grandparents in your lives. Grandparents can offer love, support, wisdom, and motivation to help their younger family members succeed. This adds up to healthier, better-adjusted families who live longer.
  • Create family traditions and memories. Holidays offer a great opportunity to create memorable family traditions that bring your family closer together. When it’s not possible to be together during the holidays, connect by phone.
Belonging
Belonging

9. POSITIVE PACK

The world’s longest-lived people are either born into or choose to create social circles that support healthy behaviors. Research from Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. Assessing who you hang out with and then proactively surrounding yourself with the right friends will do more to add years to your life than just about anything else.

 

TIPS:

  • Share a good laugh. Humor is a terrific way to build a connection with others. A good laugh together can transcend language barriers and give people common ground to relate.
  • Just be yourself. Be sincere and open.
  • Shhh… listen. Listen with all your senses, not only to what others are saying but also to how they say it and what their body language tells you. Listening with your heart brings a level of acceptance to the interaction and minimizes judgment.
  • Show sincere interest. Ask simple questions about the other person and care about them and their interests.
  • Be the support system you need at times. Be there for your pack, as they will be there for you.
  • Encourage each other to make healthy choices, move, eat wisely, and put your loved ones first!

The nine identified common aspects summarized above are not listed in order of importance. In fact, one of the key aspects that appears to have the greatest impact on helping extend people’s lives is those who proactively surround themselves with the right friends. This will do more to add years to your life than just about anything else! Conversely, those who sadly live in isolation and are lonely will end up with a reduction in life expectancy.

Engage Estero thanks Jodi for the insights on this important topic. An experiment undertaken in the USA has shown that if many of the items listed above are incorporated into one’s lifestyle, assisted by the local community, positive increases in life expectancy can and do result!

  Be Informed,
Get Engaged,
and Make an Impact!

By Allan Bowditch, Chair, Communications Committee

This article is presented for informational purposes and is not meant to be used as medical advice. Consult a physician for personalized medical advice and before making radical changes to your lifestyle.