“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.”
Since Robert Browning penned this famous line over a century ago, his words have become the modern day reality in many parts of the world. In a recently released documentary, “Ikaria: The island where people live forever,” Business Insider Films traveled to this remote ancient island, where one in three residents live to 90, to discover their longevity promoting habits. Here is what they learned—and why their lessons will require a shift in thinking in many parts of our lives:
By many measures, it is a celebration. Americans over 65 are the fastest growing segment of our population. Yet with nearly half of us having at least one chronic disease and seven out of ten leading causes of death being from chronic disease, growing old also poses unprecedented challenges: How can we make those added years filled with vibrancy and fulfillment? How can we embrace our later years and value the wisdom and inner peace that can only come with age?
That seems to come naturally to the people of Ikaria, a small Greek island nestled in the Aegean Sea. National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner and his team of researchers discovered Ikaria as a fifth Blue Zone, or longevity hotspot where people live exceptionally healthy and long lives.
Ikaria has “more healthy people over 90 than any other place on the planet” and only “one fifth the rate of dementia than in the United States,” says Buettner.
What is their ‘secret’? In Ikaria, just as in the other Blue Zones, the environment makes aging healthy the easy choice. Being geographically isolated, the people of Ikaria are self-sufficient and have been able to preserve the unique and rich cultural heritage that has enabled their centuries old reputation for health.
In Ikaria, meals are largely plant-based (heavy on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds), a dietary pattern that dramatically lowers the risk of chronic disease. Movement is part of their life – similar to our Stone Age ancestors, Ikarians burn over double the calories burned in our typical sedentary lifestyle. Time for family and friends is built into their day. And Ikarians value the contribution elderly make as wise counselors and caretakers in the circle of life.
The inextricable link between our lifestyle, environment, and our genes is the core of our research in healthy aging. The more we learn, the better we can change the way we age. Ikarians are living proof. Ikarians, however, have empirically found the scientifically proven ways we know to add healthy years to life. And for them, it is the only way of life.
In “Ikaria: The island where people live forever,” you can sense the beauty, sounds, and culture of this tiny paradise. Perhaps more importantly, by so descriptively capturing their way of life, this short documentary gives a welcomed nudge to enjoy the moment—to be grateful for the many things in the present rather than be in perpetual pursuit of the next thing in the future.