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Many Japanese live to 100 — what’s their secret?


We can look forward to a longer life by challenging our attitudes about aging.

Perhaps it’s due to our “melting pot” nature, but, on the whole, Americans are fascinated by other cultures’ values and lifestyles. Especially when it comes to tips on living healthier and longer, we love to soak up the wisdom of cultures that are older than our own.

In terms of living a long time, Japan seems to have it figured out. As a “super-aged” nation, more of the Japanese population is over the age of 65, and the island of Okinawa (called the “land of the immortals”), specifically, boasts 50 centenarians per every 100,000 people. Not only do they live long, but they’re also surprisingly healthy: many of them continue to work into their 100s.

So what’s their secret? Is there a special herb they drink or a new philosophy of life we should adhere to if we want to live as long and as healthily?

Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill that ensures a long and happy life. In researching the Okinawan population, researchers have concluded that their exceptional longevity is likely due to a combination of factors including a balanced diet, physical activity, maintaining emotional health, and the support of community.

John Roland Beard, director of the Department of Aging and Life Course at the World Health Organization, made note of this aspect of aging: “We need to shift away from the outdated stereotype that people retire and that’s that, to ensuring that older people can continue to participate in society.”

Instead of looking for one magic solution to living longer, perhaps we need to alter our fundamental perception that older people are finished contributing to society, when they still have much more to give. Advanced years can be a very fruitful time and older people who are valued and who have opportunities to contribute their talents, skills, and wisdom make our communities and our society much richer and more vibrant.

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