I watched a talk on longevity a few days ago given by a researcher/explorer who, along with a team of scientists, studies pockets of people who live significantly longer (10+ years) than the average life expectancy. And keep in mind that he is talking about vigourous, disability-free life, not bed-ridden, incapacitated elderly folks.
We probably have ideas about what would promote longevity (don't smoke, don't work too hard, don't eat fatty foods, don't live a dangerous lifestyle, take health supplements, exercise regularly, think happy thoughts, etc.), but surprisingly, none of those appeared as decisive factors in the case studies. Considering that only 10% of longevity is genetic and 90% is behavioural, the findings are in some way applicable to all of us.
Here are a few of the points he made that I found significant:
1. How we treat older people impacts how long we live and how healthy our younger generations are. In a society where old age was equated with equity (value), the life expectancy rose by at least 4 years and disease was markedly decreased in younger generations.
2. Make sure you travel through life with a number of good friends who exemplify healthy values. If you hang out with people who are obese and inactive, chances are you will end up that way as well. Connect with faithful friends and stay connected.
3. Always know why you wake up in the morning; never retire from a purposeful life.
4. The sanctuary of sacred time is imperative to continued well-being. Those who are involved in a faith community at least 4 times a month add between 4-14 years to their life.
5. Move naturally; set up your life to be constantly nudged into physical activity. Do away with conveniences and enjoy intentional and natural physical activity (walking, gardening, stairs, etc.)
6. Eat wisely: have a bit of wine every day, eat a diet high in plant content, eat small portions.
It is interesting to me that these researchers so clearly saw that long and vigorous life is founded on being connected in a meaningful way to a committed and supportive community. If we take a good look at our friends, it might tell us a lot about how long we are likely to live.
You can watch the original talk on TED by Dan Buettner here. It is about 20 minutes long.
This is a photo I took today on my walk back from casting my vote in our federal election.