What’s the secret to longevity?
The answer to this question has been desired through the ages.
The quest to live longer and healthier is perpetuated through myth, with stories about things like the fountain of youth [water that restores the youth of anyone who drinks or bathes in it] and Shangri-La [a Tibetan utopia whose inhabitants are immortal].
In more recent times, research has pinpointed places in the world where people live longest.
These areas – dubbed the Blue Zones – include the Italian island of Sardinia, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California, Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula and the Greek island of Ikaria.
The Hunter has its own pocket of longevity, although it is an aged-care home – somewhat different to the Blue Zones.
Nevertheless, it is considered unusual for an aged-care home – in this case, Opal Macquarie Place at Cameron Park – to have four residents aged 100 or over.
“I’ve been an aged-care nurse for 20 years. You’re lucky to have one person aged over 100 living in an aged-care home,” Opal Macquarie Place manager Janet Collins said.
But with life expectancy continuing to edge forward, this trend may continue – notwithstanding the obesity epidemic.
The four Cameron Park residents are Coral Duff (100), Alma Rowley (100), Peggy Raysmith (101) and Clarice McCutcheon (100).
Mrs Duff was born in Sydney and came to the Hunter as a young girl, first to Stanford Merthyr and then Hamilton North.
Throughout her life, she didn’t smoke and drank alcohol only occasionally. She had a cup of hot water each morning and loved salt.
Mrs Raysmith was born in Adelaide, moving to Newcastle when she was a young girl.
She believed the secret to longevity was “leading a good, honest life”.
Mrs McCutcheon was born in Taree, lived in Dungog as a young girl and then moved to Muswellbrook.
Mrs Rowley believed the secrets to a long life were “staying positive and thinking happy thoughts”.
Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner said in a speech at last month’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland that people living in longevity zones do not actively seek a long life.
“It was not something they pursued with a diet and exercise plan,” Mr Buettner said.
They live lifestyles that enable them to move every 20 minutes or so. That is, they’re not sitting down for long periods, staring at screens.
“People who live a long time eat wisely – they eat mostly a plant-based diet.
“They have a strong sense of purpose.
“They live in a tribe of people who share these healthy habits and keep people on the right track.”
He said an interconnected, mutually-supporting cluster of behaviours “allows you to do the right things for long enough so you don’t get a chronic disease”.