Blue is a color that does not always mean sadness. In fact, now the color is associated with longevity. Twenty years ago, Michel Poulain, longevity demographer, and Gianni Pes, a Sardinian medical doctor, validated the ages of the many centenarians in Sardinia, Italy. They then drew concentric blue circles on a map, zeroing in on a cluster of villages that were hotspots of longevity. These hotspots of long lives were called “blue zones.” In 2006, under the aegis of National Geographic, Dan Buettner collaborated with Poulain and Pes to identify other blue zones: Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Ikaria in Greece, and Loma Linda, in California (where pickleball has grown exponentially).
What does this have to do with pickleball? The average age of pickleball players is over 60 years young. While pickleball may not require the same stamina and conditioning of a marathon runner or Olympic gymnast, one must have a certain level of health and physical fitness to play. And once most people discover the world of pickleball, they want to live to a ripe age and stay healthy to continue playing as long as possible. Perhaps one day there will be a tournament age group for those 100+, if it doesn’t exist already. There is a reciprocal relationship between exercise and health-span, the length of time a person is generally healthy. Good health allows a person to exercise, but then exercise helps to make people even healthier. Be healthy, play pickleball. Play pickleball, get healthier. Get healthier, live longer. Live longer, play pickleball longer.
Back to Blue Zones. Buettner started The Blue Zone Project, which identifies and encourages communities in the United States to focus on the “Power Nine” lessons for a long lifespan and healthspan that were identified through the research of Buettner, Poulain, and Pes. These lessons are centered around exercise, nutrition, and community. Pictona at Holly Hill is a great example of all of these lessons. Obviously, a major purpose of Pictona and the Senior Activity Center is to move by playing pickleball, table tennis, shuffle board, horseshoes, croquet, etc. The delicious and healthy meals in The Kitchen and the produce that will be grown in The Gardens at Pictona contribute to eating wisely. Of course, a sense of community is a huge part of Pictona. The fellowship and camaraderie experienced before, during, and after playing pickleball is one reason people love the sport. It seems like there is a blue zone community, right in Holly Hill, Florida!