Researchers look for fountain of youth

May 18, 2009 6:30:51 PM PDT
You may have seen him on Oprah or ABC's World News Tonight. You may have read his best-selling book "The Blue Zones." Explorer Dan Buettner is the center of a modern-day search for the fountain of youth and now his quest is inspiring Bay Area children, who are trying to make their town a place where people live to be 100.

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Buettner is 48 years old and with all he has learned about longevity he should be on track to live forever. He founded the Quest Network which created a video of his travels around the globe. Buettner visits what he calls "Blue Zones," places where people live long and also remain healthy and happy.

His research team tries to find out why.

Their latest trip is to Ikaria, Greece. They are sharing it on the Internet in thousands of classrooms around the United States. One man they found is 102 years old. In a web video Buettner talks about him saying, "He says, 'I hate sitting around. I want to do more work.'"

Students watch the team's progress and help them decide what to do next. At Bel Aire School in Tiburon, students are teaming with senior citizens to follow Blue Zone research. But, they are taking the project even further.

The school's goal is to turn their own town into a Blue Zone where as one girl described, "people live to be 100 and over." The kids have also been talking to local seniors about what leads to long life.

Frieda Engel who is 89 years old says, "It's important to feel that there's a reason to keep on going."

66-year-old Audrey Hazen mentions "being active, eating well, family, good friends."

They had an Internet chat with a scientist from the Buck Institute of Age Research.

"Why do you work with worms?" one boy asked.

"They age in a way that's remarkably similar to some of the things we see in human aging," said scientist Gordon Lithgow.

Students are learning how to make food that Blue Zone residents eat and they are putting on skits all over town promoting Blue Zone ideas.

"It doesn't matter if you're 10 or 100. You still have to help your neighbors. That's called purposeful living," says one girl during a skit.

The kids even met with Alice Fredericks, the mayor of Tiburon. One boy impressed her when he asked, "How do we get a declaration of a Blue Zone Day?"

"It's not just an education for life for the kids. It's an education for the community," she said.

The initial goal was to get kids to be engaged and understand. But, once they do that you have no idea where the minds of 8-, 9-, and 10-year-olds will go," said Principal Patti Purcell.

"Interview your grandparent, interview them well, that way you'll know if their life is swell," chanted one girl.

Click here to learn what Blue Zone researchers are discovering about living a long and happy life.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney

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