Dienstag, 24. März 2015

How do you want to grow old?

No, salutogenesis is not the technical term for the reckoning of the trajectory of gun salutes, how Kreuzknappe stated here appropriately.
Neither salutogenesis was “invented” to bomb our brain with a further theory, but it originated as a result of the search for the question what keeps people for the long term healthy (and happy, too). And you can indeed behave in a salutogenetic way without having ever out of that theory.

Dear readers, how do you want to grow old?
How do you envision your life with 60, 70, 80 or still more years?

Well, have a look how a lot of old people of our society live today: A lot of elders live alone and cultivate only rare social contacts. With the time the children grew up and stepped out, the spouse died, a lot of friends and acquaintances as well. The urge to discover new things and to meet new people often lacks. That what drops out of the own life often is missed and mourned, but the vacancies are usually not filled up with new experiences. They remain faithful to the old tracks and the old trot. Moreover with the age there come mainly illnesses because of nutrition and lifestyle which additionally lower the potential of activity. Most people want to die at home, but in fact 80% die in institutions like retirement homes and hospitals.
Do you want to live like that when you have grown old?

But there is another way – that show for example the elders of Okinawa. Okinawa is said to be the group of isles of the centenarians, to be one of the places where live most of the very old persons (and predominantly in good health).

What is it what does the trick? Even a lot of searchers asked this question (the most popular one is probably the Okinawan Centenarian Study ) and came to the conclusion that the elders of Okinawa do something differently than the elders elsewhere:

At first: The nutrition. The food guide pyramid that most of us know looks approximately like that:
The lowest stage are high carb foods: grain and cereal products like bread, rolls, muesli, noodles, rice, but even potatoes. In the second stage are fruits and vegetables, in the third one high proteins like meat, fish, eggs, milk products, but even tofu and leguminous plants. In the top stage there are high fats and high sugars like oils and other fats, nuts, sweets, sugar-containing drinks. But the food pyramid of the Okinawans looks a bit different: The lowest Stage make high carbs and vegetables, the second stage consists of fruits, leafy greens, milk products and tofu. Above it stand fish, algae and nuts, thereover oils, herbs and spices. Meat, eggs and sweets are consumed rarely. Furthermore, a lot of Okinawans swear by the Goya fruit, that is a bitter tasting kind of melon that looks similar to a cucumber.
Another part of the nutrition is the „hara hachi bu“-guideline: that means that the stomach is only filled unto 80% and after the meals there is a food break, so overeating should be prevented and the digestive organs are not overloaded (Link).

In the second place: Exercise. Every afternoon they meet at the central place to play gateball, a kind of japanese cricket, like the 90-year-old Sumiko, after she worked on her field in the morning. She pulled up weeds and harvested vegetables, nevertheless she is as fit as a fiddle, and she is not he only one – the other teammates are all about hundred years old, too.

In the third place: A task. A lot of centenarians have a steady job, the sell for example at a stall on the market or work in the field, if not as much as with 60. Something like a retirement isn’t known here. “What should I do alone at home?”, answered an Okinawan woman to the corresponding inquiry. And an operator of a market stall who recently came to hire a 101-year-old: “A granny as a saleswoman grants me at minimum 10 grannies as new customers.”

In the fourth place: Community. You can be lonely on Okinawa, but you don’t have to. The elders cook and eat often together, in the afternoon they meet to play gateball, moreover a lot of Okinawans live with their extended family.

In the fifth place: Spirituality. The local religion is characterized by a mixture of shintoism and Buddhism, the ancestors and the consciousness of the own history play an important role therein. On Okinawa it is said that the elders have a good rapport with the ancestors, especially the women.

All together this is the concept of a rural population.
Even in Okinawa the things change: The young ones move into the big cities, and the “young” elders keep another style of life. It is less the place and even not the genes that the elders become so old and are so healthy but it is more the style of life – and therefore it is a question of choice.

You may say “Okinawa is far away.”
Or: “Goya-fruit? For real?”
In the next post we will consider the question what of this lifestyle we can adapt for ourselves.

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