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What We Can Learn About Life from the Oldest People On Earth

October 31, 2017

What We Can Learn About Life from the Oldest People On EarthThere is no single explanation for how and why some people live much longer than others. But there is a place where more people live longer and healthier lives than anywhere else on earth: Okinawa, Japan.

Scientists have been studying this group of seniors to see if we can learn how to live longer and more productive lives. The evidence based study is called The Okinawa Centenarian Study and spans over two decades. The findings are remarkable! They imply that, with some basic lifestyle changes, we Westerners, can increase our lifespan and ensure that our extra time here on earth is active and fun. Many gerontologists believe that up to two-thirds of our lifespan is within our control! For many of us, it is the CHOICES we make that make the difference.

What is there to be learned from the Okinawan lifestyle and how may we be able to positively influence our own lives from their examples?

Dietary Factors:
A major factor in the extraordinary health enjoyed by Okinawa elders is in their distinctive diet. It is plant-based; high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and flavonoids; and low in protein. It includes low to moderate alcohol intake, plenty of fruits and vegetables and very little saturated fat and sodium. In addition to eating like the Okinawans, we also can adopt their philosophy of ending the meal once we feel 80 percent full. In other words, eat slowly and stop early. Their traditional diet also indicates eating fish three times a week, seven servings of vegetables and fruits per day; drinking plenty of water and switching to green tea.

Exercise Factors:
Okinawan elders have lifelong routines of moderate exercise and physical activity. They walk most places they go, and keep up daily tasks such as housework, gardening and working well past the age of “retirement” in North America. Many also practice the soft martial art of Tai Chi and traditional dance.

Stress and Lifestyle:
The remarkable life spans and health in Okinawa can further be explained by the extent to which their lives are also low stress, socially rich, purposeful and spiritual. They have a point of view that sees all people as good and emphasizes the importance of responsibility to and of individuals and groups. Their spirituality offers Okinawan elders substantial stress relief, gives them a sense of social connection and purpose, and also a feeling of being a respected, important role in their community. To apply these principles to your own life, simply slow down, take a deep breath and become more involved with family and community and find your spiritual connection.

A Westernized Approach:
Adopting the Okinawan lifestyle is a way of approaching aging as a rich and meaningful part of life. Each element – eating in a healthful way, maintaining social ties, remaining active, finding purpose and meaning in life – supports and reinforces the others! The BEST lesson we can learn from the elders of Okinawa is to embrace and celebrate aging and approach it with a sense of balance and reverence.

To learn more about The Okinawa Centenarian Study, visit:

Sue Arsenault is a Co-Owner of Home Care Assistance of Southern Maine, whose compassionate caregivers, trained in the Okinawan lifestyle thru The BALANCED CARE METHOD ™, provide seniors with quality care that enables them to live healthier more independent lives at HOME. For more information email Sue at:, visit: or call us at (207) 835-4849. We also encourage you to visit our office at 251 US Route 1 (Shaw’s Plaza) in Falmouth, ME.

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