We’re all on a quest to uncover the secrets of longevity. On my journey, I’ve discovered some surprising traditions and lifestyles – ones that distant communities from the far reaches of the globe rely on to ensure good health and long life. Here are some of my favorite findings.
Stay social – be part of a community
Hold on to a circle of friends! The men of Sardinia, Italy, are noted to live as long as the women – that’s in contrast to North America, where the life expectancy of men is nearly a decade shorter than that of women. Researchers think that this phenomenon has something to do with the Sardinians’ great zest for family life and togetherness. Sardinian families traditionally gather for a weekly meal where everyone – from the youngest to the eldest – is part of the festivities.
Studies in North America help back up these findings. Psychiatrist William Uffner of Friends Hospital in Philadelphia states that involvement in a family network, accompanied by a sense of obligation, can lead to a high degree of emotional and physical satisfaction. Caring for grandchildren and watching them grow seems like an excellent way to stay healthy. Togetherness, whether it comes from your family or your retirement community, tends to create the ideal atmosphere for well being and long life.
Lifestyle makes a difference
Another region noteworthy for its high life expectancy is Okinawa, Japan – where people live longer than anywhere else in the world. It’s not uncommon to find centenarians in Okinawa enjoying fishing and biking – activities usually reserved for younger people in other communities. The Okinawa lifestyle includes working out and eating a lower-calorie diet than most Western cultures. Traditional Okinawan meals consist of miso soups packed with home-garden vegetables.
In an 80-year study documented in The Longevity Project, Professors Friedman and Martin search for the clues to living a long life. They sift through data collected starting in 1921, in which the lives of 1500 people were documented from birth to the present day. One surprising characteristic of those that lived longest was conscientiousness. One conclusion in the study was that conscientious people make wiser life choices, leading to stronger relationships and more fulfilling careers. Conscientious individuals are less likely to develop dangerous habits that can contribute to poor health.
Maintain a happy marriage
There are loads of studies that tell us married folks live longer lives. When a couple chooses to find happiness – either by rekindling the spark that drew them together or taking responsibility for the health of their relationship – the renewed joy that results leads to a long-lasting improvement in their standard of living.
Giving back to the community as a volunteer can be enormously satisfying. Knowing that your contribution is making a positive difference can go a long way towards feeling that life has a sense of purpose. Remember — we’re never too old to reach out to others and lend them the help we once needed ourselves.