Theres a tiny town in eastern Pennsylvania named Roseto. Settled in the late 1800s by emigrating Italians, it became the only 100% Italian borough in the USA, largely because they were shunned by the snobby English that dominated that little corner of Pennsylvania at the time. So, the Italians stuck together and recreated a quaint village that mimicked one of their own little hillside habitats back home. Garibaldi street was lined with every type of establishment the folks of Roseto needed, from restaurants and bakeries to beauty and butcher shops. Imagine the shoes that could be had in a town made up of Italians
The people of Roseto, however, soon gave up certain traditions, such as their beloved olive oil, which became to expensive to import, in favor of lard that was popular in American. The men toiled in stressful conditions in nearby slate quarries. They smoked like proverbial chimneys and drank wine like, well, Italians. The women worked long, difficult hours at one of the many blouse factories. Any one of these factors alone would seemingly place a burden on ones prospect of maintaining optimum health and longevity. Instead, the people of the community thrived.
In what became known as the Roseto Effect, the Rosetans were defying medical logic. In a chance conversation between the local physician and the head of medicine at the university of Oklahoma in 1966, it was revealed that the residents of this town were dying of heart attacks at only half the rate of the rest of the country. Researchers set out to discover why.
The study revealed no superior genetic resistance to heart disease as one would suspect. What it did reveal was surprising, and opened up ongoing research into what does a body and soul, good. But what ultimately happened in Roseto in later years begs to question; can a modern-day society function like a Blue Zone or even a twentieth century Roseto?
There are things that appear to trump a healthy diet when it comes to longevity. Like the Blue Zone residents, the early Rosetans:
1. Put family first. All of the houses in Roseto were multi-generational homes. ALL. Instead of discarding their elderly, they were elevated by the entire society and cared for by their families which provides nourishment for the human spirit and a sense of purpose.
2. Partake in community. Social clubs, church festivals, evening strolls down Garibaldi street to chat with neighbors. Mutual respect leads to the health of inhabitants, whereas self-indulgence and lack of concern are detractors. The whole town was snubbed by surrounding communities which brought about a unified camaraderie. A tight-knit community is important to longevity by way of dispelling stress and adversity.
3. Value stability and predictability. Everyone was like everyone else, from housing to clothing to cars to wealth, or lack there of. Conformity reduced any gaps between individuals, thus reducing stress. The crime rate in Roseto was zero. Sound like Karl Marxs Utopia? Maybe. But heres the difference
4. Have a strong work ethic. Not only did everyone work, they worked toward a common goal; a better life, and a chance to send their children to college. Applications for public assistance was zero.
Since that magical time, Roseto has lost its uniqueness. The children of Roseto, in getting that better life created the suburbs, including large homes, swimming pools, and fenced yards. The rise in material wealth and success came at the expense of the old traditional values. As time and opportunity marched on, so did heart disease and Roseto caught up with the rest of the country.
Recent studies show that, especially for those 65 and over, social activities add years to life, even as much as exercise does. Join a club, a group, an activity. Engage in productive pursuits. Mix that with a fresh food diet, and your life will not only be long, but healthy as well.