The Rise of the Centenarians

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In 2021, there were more than half a million people over the age of 100. That’s twice the number 10 years ago!

  • There are five regions in the world called Blue Zones, where a large number of people live to be over 100 years. Till 1990s, there were less than 100,000 people who were centenarians.
  • The five regions that comprise the Blue Zone are Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California.
  • One common thread that joins all these zones is the heavily vegetarian and pescatarian diet. Terms such as Okinawa diet and Mediterranean diet have become food trends as a result.
  • Apart from diet, it’s also keeping oneself physically and mentally active - like those 98-year-old local craftswomen in Okinawa or the 108-year old nonnas in Italy who like socializing.
  • While medical advances have helped us live longer, there’s also a flip side. Japan is the best example where the higher average age of the population is putting a stress on society.
  • Japan’s health ministry is focused on ensuring healthier life for centenarians with initiatives such as discount points for higher step count, turning abandoned places into community cafes and more.
  • Reversing aging is a subject area of interest of a lot of US institutes. Many are focussed not on eternal life, but ensuring a healthier old age so as to reduce inter-generational imbalance.
  • A large ailing older population means a larger portion of a nation’s economy and human resources set aside to take care of them. Consistently older politicians means less incentives for youngsters.
  • In this reading we take a look at what makes the centenarians in the Blue Zones of Japan and Italy keep going and what lessons of wisdom they have for our generation.
The Economist
The Atlantic
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