In an attempt to watch something other than “Chopped” or “Modern Family,” I randomly chose a Netflix documentary called “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones.” Every now and again I feed my brain some fact-based information to not only gain knowledge, but to liven up conversations. I can’t just chat about the humorous antics of preschoolers or the last murder mystery I’ve read all the time. It took a while to choose a documentary that wasn’t uncovering the mystery of a missing couple or reenacting the murderous conquests of some psycho. I prefer to leave such detailed horrors out of my living room. I chose light. Who doesn’t want to live to 100?

Watching TV while I cook has always been my jam. As I chopped onions for a vegetable curry, I was drawn into this documentary immediately. The thought struck me, I’m about to turn 50, so living to 100 would be living a whole second lifetime! My ears perked up ’cause lord knows I don’t always take perfect care of this glorious vessel. Any advice that allows me to live on this earth longer, I’ll take it.

The documentary investigates these “Blue Zones” around the world where there are exceptional concentrations of centenarians, the first one being Okinawa, Japan. Of course, diet and exercise were among the reasons for a long lifespan, but not the only. The Okinawan elderly eat nutrient-dense foods and tend to their gardens which provides gentle exercise. Also, they have few furniture pieces in their home, mainly a low dining room table where they sit on the floor to eat. In doing so, they are getting up and down all day long, strengthening their core and developing leg muscles. All simple ways to keep the body moving. Note to self: start an outdoor garden and get rid of most furniture.

Interestingly, the Okinawans are living long lives due to purposes beyond nutrition and exercise. And this is where I felt a sense of hope. After all, I have eaten my fair share of Oreos and often talk myself out of exercising for the sake of cleaning out the junk drawer. My hands stopped chopping as I paused to learn more.

The centenarians of Okinawa belong to groups called Moai. By definition, a Moai is a group of elderly individuals who assist each other financially when necessary—mostly for hospitalization situations or unexpected expenses. However, the documentary discovered the connections in these groups go well beyond financial support. Deep bonds are created when individuals care for and support one another. A tribe is created. The women and men of the Moai gather regularly. They cook together, walk together, play music together, and laugh together. These ties of friendship are what keep their world alive and active—ultimately increasing their lifespan.

I was so impressed by these century-old individuals who smile easily, squat regularly, and continue to cook and tend their gardens. I’m no health aficionado, but I do know the key to living healthily begins with eating well, along with regular movement. But I didn’t realize the enormous benefits to having a solid tribe of individuals. And therein lies my hope for a long life.

I am blessed to have a circle of friends who wouldn’t pause a moment if I needed them. When the virus Streptococcus wrapped its evil arms around me, my tribe delivered chicken soup, crackers, Gatorades and ice pops. They’ve picked up prescriptions, tended to my sick children and provided rides when I was stuck somewhere. Several friends have done the unheard of “mountain pop-in.” When I was in a slump and chose not to talk to anyone, they just showed up with coffee and treats. And, without judgment, sat silently beside me as I grieved. With enthusiasm, they’ve helped me paint rooms, rearrange clunky furniture, and haul heavy items up the endless stairs of my home.

One of the many things that resonated with me from the documentary was the toothless grin of a 101-year-old woman who had just finished playing a game of ring toss. Her response to What is your secret to living a long life? was “Always have fun. Don’t get angry with anyone. Make everyone happy. Laughter and happiness brings us longevity.”

If this is the case, I think I’m definitely living to be 100 years old. My father’s sense of humor lives within me and I surround myself with others who laugh readily—people who see the light in things and can laugh at themselves. Because, after all, it’s not always about what you’re doing or where you’re going, it’s who you’re doing it with. I’m fortunate to have chosen my Moai members wisely—each with a heart and soul so grand I feel the love even when not in their presence.

There are more episodes to the documentary I haven’t watched yet. Certainly more words from the wise that will encourage a change in my lifestyle. As I approach my 50th year, I’m focusing on eating well, gratefully walking the 21 steps to my door, and reciprocating the care and support of my tribe. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be sitting cross-legged on the living room floor imparting wisdom as my Moai buzz about me, cooking, laughing, playing games, and reminiscing.

The Clues Are in the Blues