A little known island in Greece has been named as one of the world’s top spots in terms of living longer. The island of Ikaria, some 30 miles off the coast of Turkey in the Aegean Sean, has been named one of the world’s five Blue Zones where people live measurably longer lives.
The zones have been identified by demographics researcher Dan Buettner and National Geographic as places where people reach the age of 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States. Their latest research found that people on Icaria are two and a half times more likely to reach the age of 90 than Americans and are living roughly a decade longer than the rest of Europe before succumbing to illnesses associated with old age.
The island has a reputation among Greeks for being a health spot thanks to its hot springs near Therma but it is largely off the international radar as it is not a tourist attraction with bars and nightclubs. However, it does have great weather with average temperatures of 10C in winter and not much rain in the summer. Like other Greek islands it has plenty of beaches but the pace of life is more relaxed with many people growing their own wine and vegetables. They also produce a range of herbal teas and believe in traditional Greek remedies. Other blue zones are Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, Loma Linda in California, USA, and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.
Quote from ExpatForum.com : “I’m retiring in about five years, I think; I want to be someplace by the water, where it’s warm all the time. Anyone know about retiring to Greece? I know the economy is having problems.”
Even the University of Athens has looked at the Icarian way of life with researchers studying the lives of 1,420 Icarian residents over the age of 30, including 89 men and 98 women over the age of 80. They concluded that the secret to a good and long life is a mix of lifestyle and circumstance and that remaining active in old age is important. Indeed they found that 84% of men over the age of 80 and 70% of women are still active.
The study also found that very few of the elderly residents surveyed were currently smoking although the vast majority admitted that they had smoked regularly at some stage but had quit. Residents also benefit from a Mediterranean diet and have a positive outlook on life with little signs of depressive illness.
However, the island is unlikely to attract a large number of expats as it is relatively isolated and winds and sea currents mean it is not on the main shipping lanes. There are also not a lot of jobs and just 5.7% of men and 2.1% of women over the age of 80 considered their financial status to be very good.