Why Community Is the Secret to Healthy Living

NEXT conference

With oodles of open space, an abundance of healthy eating options and yoga studios on every corner, it’s not too hard to figure out how Marin County tops the charts, year after year, on longevity. Some key factors of healthy aging were outlined in a book that came out in 2020 by science writer Marta Zaraska, Growing Young: How Friendship, Optimism, and Kindness Can Help You Live to 100. These include the fact that a hug increases oxytocin levels, which reduces inflammation, as does making eye contact, even with your dog. My favorite take away is that volunteers show lower levels of inflammation measures, such as interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, and those who engage in acts of kindness can see changes in the way genes for their immune system are expressed. 

In other words, “powerful positive connections” — words that Marin Magazine’s parent company Make it Better Media Group lives by — keep us young. 

NEXT conference

One example of community connecting is the first annual NEXT conference, which took place in May at Dominican University’s Barowsky School of Business and was put on by Marin Sonoma Impact Ventures (MSIV). The conference  brought together 300 attendees to be inspired by 45-plus speakers who all shared their wisdom, entrepreneurial journey and insights, was the brainchild of MSIV founders Zachary Kushel of Corte Madera and San Rafael’s Elizabeth Murphy.

The next morning, one attendee wrote to Kushel,  “…the whole event felt much more authentic and everyone more approachable than other conferences because it felt like we were talking to neighbors.”  This is exactly what we were hoping for, he explains. “The best way to think about MSIV, is that we’re a local startup with a mandate to help other local startups. As a social enterprise, we have a dual mandate: to generate profits for our business and to help build a more robust local startup community.” (Fun fact: The two founders met at the successful Marin startup, Glassdoor, whose first office was right down the hall from Marin Magazine’s office on the second floor of 1 Harbor Drive in Sausalito.) 

There were many standouts speakers at the conference, including a panel led by Susan Griffin-Black of EO Products, in which three of the four participants were over 60, thriving and engaged in their careers. One of the panelists, Miyoko Schinner, was 57 when she started her plant-based food company in Petaluma, Miyoko’s Creamery. A self-described serial entrepreneur, she had also started a bakery, restaurant, natural food company that made alternative meats in the 1990s (and sold vegan cookies and cinnamon rolls to United Airlines for 10 years), and has written six cookbooks, none of which has reached success of her latest endeavor.

On the topic of the county’s longevity, she credits Marin’s connection with nature. “We are simply so blessed,” she says, “The beauty entices us outdoors where we find ourselves hiking, cycling, communing with nature and finding our inner selves. And generally speaking, Marinities are more conscious of their food choices than much of the rest of the country.” However, she notes, if longevity is our goal, we can still have room for improvement. And it’s not the reason she started a plant-based company, but perhaps longevity will be an outcome, since vegans and vegetarians tend to outlive omnivores. “I started Miyoko’s out of my love for animals and the desire to inspire others to help create a food system founded on liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness for all living beings through delicious food that brings people around the table to celebrate life, community and each other.” 

Cheers to getting out this summer and doing what we as a county do best: perform acts of kindness, volunteer, and eat good, healthy food — the cornerstones to aging well. Tag us @marinmagazine to share how you are spending the summer doing any of the above. 

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Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade and is currently the Editor-at-Large at Make it Better Media. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccerswim, volleyballballethip hopgymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center and then The EACH Foundation. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine. If you want more, she’s created a website, LocalGetaways.com.