One of the challenges in studying human ageing is to find enough subjects who live for long enough in a similar environment. That’s probably why scientists who are interested in ageing tend to light up when they hear the mention of Okinawa and Sardinia because the people who live there can live there for a long time – each island has a high proportion of centenarians, or people of 100 years or older.
Okinawa is an island off the coast of Japan where living to your 80s, 90s and even past 100 while in good health is not that remarkable. Many elderly people who live on Okinawa Island live active and independent lives and they tend to have a lower risk of dementia than their European counterparts.
What’s their secret? Scientists are trying to find out. They are carrying out studies on these “oldest old” – for some studies you have to be over 100 to take part! – and it seems that lifestyle and attitude to ageing are important factors. The traditional Okinawa diet is high in vegetables, and there’s a culture of keeping physically, socially and mentally active in older age.
Prof Ian Robertson explains how it is important to keep mentally engaged and feeling useful beyond retirement and into older age
Sardinia too has more than the usual share of centenarians – and again diet, physical activity and a cultural attitude of respect for ageing appear to be important.
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