According to older Australians, the top three secrets to living longer are being happy and content, eating well and exercising. Being financially savvy, working hard and enjoying life are also said to be the key ingredients to living well.
With life expectancy on the rise, Australian Seniors released a 100 Year Lifespan Report that sheds light on the thoughts and opinions of older Australians on what they see as the opportunities and challenges that come with ageing.
Of the 5,000 over 50s surveyed, most view the prospect of living to 100+ as a positive, with a decisive 72.5% saying that being older means being wiser. Being healthy, happy and travelling more were the top three when asked what they wanted to be or do when they ‘grow up’.
“A happy and healthy participant in life, helping out my family, but also being in charge of my time and finances,” says one 67-year-old woman from NSW.
“A happy person that has good health both physical and mental. Maintain the capacity to continue to integrate with people and continue to enjoy laughter. Oh yeah, and continue to play golf at least once a week,” says a man from ACT, aged 68.
Living to be 100 is seen as having more time to enjoy family (31.5%), having more time to get things done and experience new things (19.1%), extending the chance to see how everything works out (16.1%) and being able to share wisdom with younger generations to ensure mistakes aren’t repeated (9.2%).
For 16.1%, living out a century could also mean possibly becoming bored with life.
“Enjoy every moment as if it was your last,” advises one Qld woman, 53. “Respect yourself with dignity. Listen and learn with grace. Love yourself. Appreciate your worth. Stress less.”
A 74-year-old man from Qld says: “Get educated so you can have a trade or profession so that the future will give back lasting rewards, instead of always looking over your shoulder wondering how you are going to survive.”
In the zone
Interestingly, there are certain geographic areas where residents are three times more likely to reach 100 than anywhere else on the planet. Dubbed ‘Blue Zones’ by researchers, these places are home to extremely high numbers of centenarians and said to be some of the healthiest hotspots on earth.
Studies show that genetics account for 20–30% of longevity. Scientists studying these regions suggest that environmental influences, such as diet and lifestyle, may play a big role in determining lifespan.
Longevity experts found that people living on the remote Greek Island of Ikaria, for example, remain active well into their 90s and have 20% fewer instances of cancer and half the rate of cardiovascular disease compared with the rest of the world.
The islanders enjoy a typical Mediterranean diet, said to be one of the healthiest food regimes in the world, that’s rich in olive oil, homegrown vegetables and the odd glass of red wine.
Sardinia, another Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy, celebrates more men turning 100 than any other place on earth. Residents also live on a simple, locally grown diet that includes lots of whole plant foods such as grains, beans, fruit and vegetables as well as olive oil, dairy primarily from sheep and goats, and a little red wine. Meat is often reserved for Sundays and special occasions.
The Okinawa islands at the western end of Japan were once known as ‘The Land of the Immortals’ because their inhabitants seemed to survive forever. Okinawan people still live longer than any other population in the world and eat a diet rich in sea vegetables.
People from Nicoya, Costa Rica, are more than twice as likely to reach the age of 90 than anybody else in the world. In most cases, the elderly live with their families and say their children and grandchildren provide a sense of purpose and belonging.
The Nicoyan diet is based around beans and corn tortillas and the people perform physical jobs well into their old age.
Finally, a tight-knit community of Seventh Day Adventists from Loma Linda, a city near Los Angeles, are outliving Americans by almost a decade. They eat a strict vegetarian diet, avoid drinking alcohol and smoking and remain active and community-minded all their lives.
Typically, diets in the Blue Zones are rich in vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. Exercise is built into life rather than done at a gym, and families tend to stay together with older members respected for their age and wisdom.
But whether it’s diet, physical wellbeing or a sense of belonging, the longevity and lack of disease in these regions is significant compared with other places in the world.
What’s the next chapter?
Against the backdrop of increasing life expectancy, growing older presents a whole range of unique opportunities and challenges for Australia’s over 50s. So, how can you embrace growing older and living longer in order to make the most of this life stage? Here are some ideas from Australian Seniors that could help…
- Maintain physical health and wellbeing by eating well and regularly exercising
- Maintain social connections with family, friends and loved ones
- Spend time to pursue hobbies, interests and passions
- Speak to a trusted health professional for health advice
- Speak to a trusted professional adviser for financial advice.