By Clive Lindley-Jones | September 4, 2012 11:42 am
This summer we welcomed Sarah Wilkinson who joined us in July to replace Amelia Hall. We are very happy to have Sarah’s new skills and cheerful energy join our team. Sarah also runs her own practice, The Quantum Room, specialising in Past Life Regression, Future Life Progression, Reiki and Shamanic Cord Cutting.
Who cares about all this Ageing stuff?
If I had known that I was going to live this long,
I would have taken better care of myself.
Given my theme for late 2012, as I cross that arbitrary line into ‘pensioner’ and focus on ways we can live well long into the third age, I want to write a note for those for whom any talk of ageing well seems utterly irrelevant.
As Maurice Chevalier is supposed to have said, ‘Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative‘. For those just trying to get through the day and pay off their student loans or bring up the children, considering their life in older age, inevitably seems a ‘thought too far’. And yet, just as a pension started when it seems an almost absurd waste of money with so many pressing, urgent calls on it now, it may turn out to be a prudent decision. It is also never too early to start the habits of self care that can lead to a healthier third age. So, not withstanding Woody Allen’s amusing thoughts below, hang on in there – if you are lucky, you, too, will be older sooner than you think. Then some of this ‘old man musing’ may well turn out to have some truth to it after all and if you make the changes younger, like pensions, they get easier to get used to and pay back bigger dividends in later years!
“In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people’s home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then Voila! You finish off as an orgasm!”
― Woody Allen
“At seventy you are but a child, at eighty you are merely a youth, and at ninety, if the ancestors invite you into heaven, ask them to wait until you are one hundred…and then you might consider it”.
Ancient Okinawan proverb.
The time: June 1971, the place: Okinawa, East China Sea. The total number of American troops still in Vietnam drops to a record low of 196,700 (the lowest since January 1966). Actors David Tenant and Ewan McGregor are born. After the break up of the Beatles, John Lennon is in New York making some interesting music, while men are driving buggies around the surface of the moon and things are going from bad to worse in Laos and Cambodia. East Pakistan is painfully becoming Bangladesh, and George Harrison is having a concert in the Albert Hall to help raise funds for them. The Peoples Republic of China replaces the Republic of China, (Taiwan) in the the UN… and coincidentally, I found myself on a slow boat to China.
I had to stop off in Okinawa and having to sleep another night on the beach because my boat for Kagoshima (on the tip of the Japanese mainland) left early, without me, due to a bad weather warning. At that time, the islands were just about to be handed back to the Japanese by the Americans, who had invaded and occupied them in 1945 at the end of World War 2, at enormous cost in life, on both sides.
I had no idea, until many decades later, that I was, briefly, in the place were there are the most centenarians in the world. For centuries, the health and vitality of the local people was known and remarked upon by travellers. However, it is only in recent years that the outside world, and particularly science, has taken an interest.
The 1970’s saw a flurry of interest in long living peoples around the world, from Georgia in the Caucasus’s, through the Hunzakuts in Pakistan to the Vilcabambans in Ecuadorian Andes. However, the accuracy of the ages of the older people was gradually brought into question by the doubtful quality and veracity of birth and death certificates. In Okinawa, however, every city, town and village has a family register system (koseki) that has been recording reliable birth marriage and death statistics since 1979. These records show more than 400 centenarians in a population of 1.3 million – about 34% per hundred thousand – many of them still healthy, active and living independently. This compares to something around five to ten centenarians per hundred thousand in Europe and the USA
Geographical Factors Influencing Living to 100 – The Centenarian.
Interestingly, as the website The Centenarian notes,
‘In developed nations the fastest growing segment of the population is centenarians – that is people living to 100 years of age or more! In fact, worldwide, the number of humans celebrating a century of life has multiplied dramatically from 1875 to 1950, and has just about doubled every decade since 1950. For instance, in Denmark, between 1870 and 1880, only 3 individuals on average ever celebrated their 100th birthday, as compared to 213 new centenarians reported there in 1990.
A baby boy born today in the UK on average will live to 77 and girls to 81. According to the Office for National Statistics, the chances of living to 100 are 18.1% for new born boys; 23.5% for girls. If you are a 40-year-old male perusing this website, unfortunately your odds are somewhat worse, only about 8%. A 40-year-old woman does a little better, her odds are almost 12% of celebrating a three-figure birthday. But what about globally? Are there places to live where you are more or likely to live to be 100 or more?
In sheer numbers the United States sports the largest number of centenarians. According to 2005 census data over 55,000 people residing in the US were 100 or more years of age. At the centenarians current rate of expansion in The States, that number could reach over one million by the year 2050, when the first “baby boomers” reach the century mark. The large US number is mainly a function of America’s greater total population, but proportionally, the largest percentage of people living to 100 is found on the Island of Okinawa, where per capita there are almost 4 centenaries for every one living in the US’.
The Caribbean island of Barbados, while proportionally behind Okinawa, has the second highest percentage of centenarians in the world. Elizabeth “Ma Pampo” Israel, was the worlds oldest documented living person. Born in1875, she died in 2003 at the ripe old age of 128! She was a lifetime resident of the Island of Dominica – where her longevity, though record breaking, was not uncommon. The island’s total population is only around 70,000, and at least 21 Dominicans have been recorded that are currently 100 years old or more.
Well, perhaps you have no desire to live that long anyway. You may still adhere to the call of The Who in their classic 1965 number, My Generation. It is interesting to speculate how Pete Townsend, now, 67, may feel today, about the last classic youthful line he penned in 1965.
People try to put us d-down (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin’ ’bout my generation).
Irrespectively of how long we all actually live, the message from Okinawa is, that age can be a good rather than a bad time, if certain key factors are in place.
Sure, having good genes certainly plays a part, but only, perhaps (adding a third factor into the mix) the rest seems to depend on the environment. The strange thing is that as long as people have good health, mobility, sufficient minimal wealth, an optimistic, non-cynical attitude and good companionship, they seem to want to go on living, long after they officially get old. It is not so much old age, as such, that is to be feared rather the premature decline in cognition, mobility and opportunity for that primary human need: love and connection, as well as growth and contribution, that we all fear. With that fear, we assume that these declines are inevitable and unavoidable, rather than, in part, the end stage of decisions we have made along the pathway of our previous life. Yes, there are, of course, elements of luck in the frame, but like those pensions, prudent forethought and action can go a long way..why wait?
To learn more about the ongoing study of Okinawa’s seniors go to: http://www.okicent.org/study.html
Book of the month.
The Okinawa Way: How to Improve your Health and Longevity Dramatically by B. Willcox, C. Willcox and M. Suzuki.
This book is based on what has been learned from a 25 year landmark medical study of the world’s longest living people. To live the good life for longer, of course, the first trick is not to die. And scientists have been trying to work out why, amongst the older people of these islands, there is such a relatively low incidence of the major killers which plague the western world; heart disease, strokes and cancer.
While, for understandable reasons, there is a great emphasis on nutrition and exercise in many contemporary thoughts about healthy ageing, one of the strengths of this book is the fact that it is written by two medical doctors – Japanese, Makoto Suzuki M.D, and Canadian, Bradley Willcox M.D. But at the same time, Bradley’s brother, Craig Willcox Ph.D, who is an experienced anthropologist. In this way, they have not only focused on the traditionally healthy Okinawa diet, their approach to both aerobic and anaerobic exercise and flexiblity and a successful integration of Eastern and Western healthcare, but also on the spiritual outlook and cultural support that enable them to live in harmony with nature and each other.
An interesting read, both for its anthropological insights and for its suggestions of how we might adapt the ways of those long living Okinawan men and women. Interestingly, in view of last months Near Death Experience book of the month, Dr. Suzuki, the lead researcher, had himself experienced a NDE which seems to have helped him live a more relaxed life and perhaps influenced his choice of this research subject.
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”