In Healthy at 100, John Robbins explores the lifestyles of four of the world’s longest living cultures: the Abkhasians of Southern Russia, the Vilcabambans of Ecuador, the Hunza of Northern Pakistan, and the Okinawans of Japan. The cultures all share an extraordinarily high number of centenarians, and a low incidence of most of the chronic diseases of Western culture.
The essence of the book is an effort to discover what these four long-living cultures have in common. While the discoveries may not be entirely surprising, they way they’re delivered is inspiring nonetheless – this was an insightful read.
Some of the common traits among the cultures that Robbins uncovered during his research include:
Plenty of Moderate Exercise
These are active people, in terms of their lifestyle. Three of the four cultures, in fact, live in mountainous terrain. The daily exercise that they get simply from going about their lives is very high.
High Vegetable Diet
Robbins is a big proponent of the vegan lifestyle, so he may be showing his bias, but all of the cultures ate a diet extremely high in vegetables. Many added dairy or small amounts of meat or fish, but their diet was predominantly plant-based, and in most cases seemed to be moderately low in overall calories.
Love and Connection
Each culture fostered strong familial and communal bonds, with multi-generational homes, and close interaction among people. Even as the elders of society age, they stay engaged with their communities through these close connections. That engagement keeps the older members of society mentally and physically healthy even into their advanced years.
Healthy Attitude Toward Aging and the Aged
This is clearly Robbins’ core message, that our attitude towards the elderly in our culture, and towards our own aging, plays a dramatic role in how well we age physically. By marginalizing the older members of our society and viewing our own aging as a curse, rather than an increase in wisdom and life experience, we reduce our expectations of the elderly, and in doing so speed up their decline.
I listened to the audio version of this book early this year, and the simplicity of the “secrets” of aging well resonated with me. The biggest downside? It’s a little sad that many of these happy, healthy cultures are losing their simple, natural edge as the world changes.
PS If you’re interested in other cultures, you might want to join Amanda and Terry from the clinic as they share stories, photos and videos from their mission trip to Senegal, Africa. The presentation will be at The Collingwood Public Library on Wednesday, February 24, 6-8:30 PM. Admission is free, and so are the snacks!