November 12, 2012
“Imagine living in a place that seems more like fantasy than reality…
Imagine your life having purpose, and at 85 or 90 still getting up each day to go to work: teaching, cooking or helping a young one with math, knot tying or painting. No forced retirement!
This is not Never Never Land… this is Ikaria. And it’s a real place — a small Greek Island.”
Residents of the Greek island of Ikaria, where many live into their 90s, don’t think too much about the passing of generations. Nor are they terribly concerned about time. Or money. They grow most of their own food, sleep as long as they like, have little interest in material goods and spend a lot of long afternoons and evenings socializing with friends over locally produced wine and homemade meals.
We were particularly intrigued by “The Island Where People Forget to Die,” a recent New York Times Magazine article on Ikaria, a Greek island in the Aegean that’s home to some of the world’s longest-living people.
The piece looks at a variety of reasons for Ikarians’ longevity, including their sleeping habits, regular exercise, close-knit community and relaxed lifestyle. But it’s the food part of the equation that really got us going.
An awful lot of the article dwells on healthful aspects of the Ikarian lifestyle, but these mostly seem to be fairly generic aspects of the Mediterranean diet and way of life. And I’m very happy to believe that a diet rich in olive oil and plants and low in satured fat featuring plenty of rest and a strong sense of community is healthy. Certainly there seems to be a good deal of evidence pointing this way, both scientific and social scientific. But the interesting think about Ikaria is precisely that the people there live so much longer than the people on the other Greek Isles or elsewhere in the region.
Author Dan Buettner‘s latest update hit bookstores this week: Blue Zones (National Geographic) adds a segment on Ikaria, Greece, a 99-square-mile island 30 miles off the coast of Turkey. After the first edition was published in 2008, he says Greek researchers contacted him about Ikaria.
“They gave us the tip” that the island has 10 times as many siblings over the age of 90 compared with any other place in Europe,” says Buettner, 52. “Then we got a grant from National Geographic to go there.