Here’s Dan Buettner writing in his book, The Blue Zones:
A final and subtle, yet powerful, Sardinian attribute is their positive attitude towards elders. In America, being young is celebrated, and growing old is often dreaded.
In America, we are increasingly having to care for our seniors outside the family: People over 65 in the U.S. will need long-term care for an average of three years, and more than a third of them will not rely on help from family.
There are no long-term care facilities in the Sardinian Blue Zone. There, respect increases with age. Younger generations feel an affectionate debt to the parents and grandparents who raised them. All but one of the 50 or so centenarians I interviewed had a daughter or granddaughter who actively cared for them.
Do you think it’s a matter of economics? Does Sardinia not have long-term care facilities because they can’t afford them? And so the care for the elderly naturally falls to the family?
Maybe there’s some of that, but … “an affectionate debt.” Would it were that was what we felt towards the older people among us. If we felt a personal and societal debt, if older people knew they would be cared for, as they cared for our country’s youth, that they would be needed, not discarded, knew that someone would be holding their hand as they passed into the great beyond, then growing old might not be accompanied by a feeling of dread as Buettner tells it. It might be accompanied by a sense of connectedness, of usefulness and purpose.
This concept of respect for the elderly – the affectionate debt – has to be part of the longevity equation. It has to be.
What happens to the elderly in this country who have limited finances and no family left? This person argued, without tongue-in-cheek, that they’d be better cared for in a prison than a retirement home. How did we come to that?
Blue Zone is a phrase used to identify an area of the world where people live longer-than-average lives, in relatively good health.
Here are 5 Blue Zones Buettner identified:
- Sardinia, Italy: In mountain villages, men reach the age of 100 years at an amazing rate.
- Okinawa, Japan: some of the longest-lived people on Earth.
- Loma Linda, California: A group of Seventh-day Adventists who rank among North America’s longest-lived.
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The subject of research on a Quest Network expedition which began in 2007.
- Icaria, Greece: Nearly 1 in 3 people make it to their 90s. Ikarians “have about 20% lower rates of cancer, 50% lower rates of heart disease, and almost no dementia.”