By 2030, over 72 million baby-boomers will be entering retirement. Though living longer than previous generations, 80% of America’s seniors suffer from chronic illnesses such as heart disease, obesity, or Alzheimer’s. In contrast, the landscapes of longevity have shaped cultures whose daily work, diet, & social routines enable citizens to live measurably longer, healthier lives & work well into old age.

“Landscape is the composition of man-made or man-modified spaces that serve as the background for our collective existence.” – J.B. Jackson

With the support of the 2013 Howland Fellowship & the UVA Center for Design and Health, graduate students Asa Eslocker & Harriett Jameson spent last summer exploring public landscapes in 3 locations characterized by extreme longevity – Loma Linda, California; the central highlands of Sardinia, Italy; &, Okinawa, Japan.  Through a cultural landscapes perspective, they researched the physical, spatial, & material qualities of these landscapes – such as access to nature, medicinal plant species, & culturally significant waterfalls – & the relationships among everyday routines, sense of place, & positive well-being.

 “Stories are just data with soul.” – Brene Brown

Longevity research has traditionally been queried with quantifiable metrics such as diet & genetics.  However, sense of place cannot be illuminated with these methods.  It is something known physiologically & emotionally, mentally & spiritually.  It can only be gained through lived experience & conveyed through the stories of life & place.

Therefore, this project—situated within a cross-disciplinary framework of cultural landscape theory, public health, & ethnography—employs narrative as the data that yields subtle, embodied, & place-based practices shaping longevity in these cultural landscapes.

On April 8, the team will present their final documentary Landscapes of Longevity at Newcomb Theatre in Charlottesville at 6:00pm with a following reception.  All are welcome. Additionally, an exhibit of the work will be hung in the School of Architecture East Wing Gallery during the month of April.

By Harriett Jameson