The older we get the more aware we become of longevity and what constitutes quality of life.
Perhaps it’s partly my previous career in ElderCare, or the fact I moved and took care of my dementing mother for the last few years of her life, or maybe it’s the awareness I can now say “Fifty years ago…” and I know what I’m talking about.
I follow several researchers in the area and I’m on several newsletter mailing lists to keep up on what they’re finding and what they’re recommending.
Enter… Healthy Centenarians
There seem to be several areas in the world where centenarians are not unusual… and they are healthy centenarians! Four of these areas are Sardinia, Okinawa, Ikaria, and Nicoya, Costa Rica.
The traits these groups have in common include some self-sufficiency (farming, animal husbandry); activity (they don’t rely on technology for their regular chores); a long-term, multi-generational community of family and friends who live similarly; purpose (they still perform duties within their family/friend groups); and a plant-based diet (meat is still a part of the diet, but infrequently).
The thing these areas have in common are some isolation (islands and/or mountainous regions) and a location within 18° in either direction of the Tropic of Cancer. This latter fact becomes a point in the discussions around healthy longevity that I have with my Canadian friend and colleague, Judith, who is questioning the fact that ElderCare in Canada is always framed as though loss of health, mobility and socialization is a given when there is plenty of proof that it is not.
Have we grown too far away?
Given all the facts I just mentioned, I’m curious if the “industrialized” countries many of us inhabit have grown too far away from longevity enhancing habits. I realized we all have stories about a centenarian or two… but the fact they are stories of note suggests they are not the norm.
I’m curious what you think.
If usefulness (even full-on ‘jobs’) and large social/family community are mainstays, the combination is pretty rare in my country. Apparently Okinawans don’t even have a word for retirement.
As I get older I love the concept of living in community, whether genetic family or created family. I love slowing down to relish a cool morning, the song of the birds, the feel of plucking an apple off a tree, sharing a glass of wine with friends. To spend an afternoon preparing a meal with friends, most of which has come from our gardens, would be a dream come true.
How is aging viewed where you live?
As I know some of you hail from not-Canada I’m curious to know how aging is viewed in your country, and by your government. Are older people considered a burden to financial/medical systems? Do younger generations speak with annoyance about elders or do they value them for their knowledge and stories?
Living in a city, with my history in ElderCare, I know a lot of families feel that ‘homes’ are the answer to frailty in an elder. But… I also know a lot of people who embrace the elders in their family, loving the memories, the old recipes, the tall tales… secure in the knowledge that love trumps so many things and, at the end of a life, the value received far outweighs any sacrifice made and the narrative lives on.
Apparently my antidote is a glass of wine?
It’s not my style to end on a heavy note so I will mention my daughters argue over who will get to take care of me in my dotage, figuring that a glass of wine will solve all my problems (or any that I cause)… but that I shouldn’t drink alone!