Who is the Man Who “Forgot” To Die…and Inspired the Netflix Documentary: Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones?

September 11, 2023

Sometimes, stories come along that defy our understanding of what it means to live a long and fulfilling life. The story of Stamatis Moraitis is one such tale, a testament to the power of resilience, humor, and the simple life.  Such tales have prompted the study of longevity hot spots, or “Blue Zones”. These are regions in the world where people have a higher-than-average life expectancy and lower rates of age-related diseases. The findings about these Blue Zones are fascinating; and leave us all wondering “What is the secret potion?”

The man who brought this topic to the spotlight is Stamatis Moraitis.  He was living in suburban New York when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in his 60s.  His doctors told him he had just six to nine months left to live. Moraitis did not want his family to be burdened with the costs of an American funeral. So, the Greek father of three decided to move back to his homeland, on the isolated Mediterranean island of Ikaria, with his wife Elpiniki.  While waiting to die, Moraitis spent another 32 years thriving in his ancestral home, which is a longevity hotspot. Eventually he passed away at either 98 or 102 (he could not remember his exact age) and inspired the new Netflix docuseries: Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones.

Ikaria: The Island of Longevity

Stamatis’s comeback to Ikaria transformed his life. In his homeland’s comforting embrace, he found physical and emotional healing. He embraced the Mediterranean diet, with fresh veggies, olive oil, and local wine. He embraced a stress-free life, taking daily naps and leisurely village strolls. Gradually, he became active, enjoying fresh air, clear blue waters, wine, and old friends. He even took up gardening.

Remarkably, as the years went by, his health began to improve. His lung cancer went into remission, and he gradually regained his strength. What was initially intended as a return to die became an incredible journey of rebirth and rejuvenation. When asked “What is your secret?” Stamatis shrugs and said “I don’t know! I guess I just forgot to die.’”

Ikaria, the Greek island parked halfway between Athens and Turkey, is a unique isolated spot, an island where people routinely live past 100. It is called a “Blue Zone.”  Many people have taken to studying Blue Zones, particularly a man named Dan Buettner, an American author, explorer, and National Geographic Fellow.  Buettner has recently released his Netflix documentary, Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones.   The documentary chronicles the certain areas of the world – Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California – where more people live significantly longer than average. Notably, these individuals are called centenarians, a person who has reached the age of 100 years. Here are some more details about the 5 Blue Zones of the world:

  • Ikaria, Greece: This Greek island is known for its high proportion of centenarians and low rates of chronic diseases. The residents of Ikaria follow a traditional Mediterranean diet, stay physically active, and maintain strong social connections.
  • Okinawa, Japan: Okinawa has one of the world’s highest concentrations of centenarians. The Okinawan diet, which is rich in vegetables and low in calories, along with an active lifestyle, contributes to their longevity.
  • Sardinia, Italy: Specifically, the region of Sardinia known as the “Blue Zone” has a high number of male centenarians. The local diet includes whole grains, beans, and goat’s milk. The small town also boasts a strong sense of community.
  • Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: This region in Central America has a high number of centenarians. The Nicoyans have a diet that includes beans, corn, and tropical fruits, and they maintain active lifestyles.
  • Loma Linda, California, USA: Loma Linda is unique among the Blue Zones as it is not a remote, isolated region. It is home to a community of Seventh-day Adventists who follow a vegetarian diet, prioritize physical activity, and engage in regular social activities.

Surprisingly, you do not have to move to one of the Blue Zones to get to your 100th  birthday.  As The Blue Zones author and educator Dan Buettner explains: The habits, diets, and lifestyles of blue zone centenarians are simple, with only small changes required. So, what are these habits? They can be as basic as opting for a manual gadget over an automatic one, enjoying a glass of wine in the evening to unwind, or as instinctive as recognizing your life’s purpose and daily commitment to it. The docuseries points out 12 patterns that emerged from the Blue Zones and ways to integrate them into your life and community.

Opportunities exist every day in our lives to emulate the Blue Zones. The opportunities for walking and exercising, seeking out and using bike lanes, as well as making healthier, plant-based meal options which are becoming more accessible at grocery stores and restaurants.  And bolstering human connections while connecting with your inner purpose, which can be achieved through finding people to connect with, volunteering, walking groups, gardening, or mural painting, etc. The list is endless.

Our estate planning and elder law firm places a premium on the tranquility required for a graceful aging process. Allow us to alleviate some of the burdens associated with preparing for your golden years. Our exclusive focus lies in estate planning, ensuring you peace of mind regarding the welfare of your family once you are no longer here. Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or info@ocestatelawyers.com to get started with your free consultation. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish and Russian.