Loving life until 100
By Renée Archambault
The secret of centenarians... This is a subject that fascinates me. How can the vital energy be powerful enough in certain beings to inhabit their bodies with health for ten, twenty, thirty years longer than their fellow men? Energy is a mysterious phenomenon. It is however observable, relatively measurable, renewable in various ways and it seems to me that most of us have little control over this process which I believe is a gold mine for enhancing the quality of our lives.
Among centenarians and super centenarians (110 years and older) there are of course great genetic dispositions. According to a study conducted by the Ipsen Foundation (Dr. Yves Christen) between 1990 and 2000, they have "star" genes that keep them away from some of the most common diseases: Ahlzeimer's disease, cardiovascular pathologies. For a long time, it was believed that it was impossible to act on the heredity of human beings, but studies conducted on animals allow us to be optimistic for the future.
The first conclusion from this study is that there is no single, precise recipe for centenarians. They do not have a common morphology or geographical origin, nor do they have a common diet or blood type. This demonstrates, according to these researchers, the multifactorial character of this predisposition (and its complexity for research). Even the genetic character is only a variable since only 60% of the centenarians had a parent who had lived to 100 years of age.
The second conclusion of this study is that centenarians are not spared the difficulties of life. They have often experienced two world wars, sometimes hunger, most of the time bereavement of a spouse, etc. and this in a context of social care that has not always been what it is today. Thus, no luck factor could have played in favor of their great disposition to aging. The authors of the study emphasize the essential role of "resilience", the attitude that allows one to face a problem in an open and positive way. In fact, centenarians have in common a tremendous vitality, an open mind, a will to overcome. Some continue their studies (Adriana Jannilli, 94 years old, law graduate, Italy (1) ), others set up associations, and still others practice their favorite sport on a daily basis (Bernada Angulo, 97 years old, swimming champion.
Cultivating life ...
Let us now review the aspects that are more specific to the personality of centenarians and that promote their longevity. This also represents some of the components over which they have the most control, where their will interferes. What these deans all have in common is that they seem to have the best disposition in the world towards life. They are in high spirits and cultivate a constant cheerfulness, a zest for life. They take care of their health by staying active (2): they work to make their life exciting, they keep aiming for personal goals. They appreciate what they have and are often generous, not hesitating to give support and affection. Finally, they have a supportive social life.
Delaying the work of time: other factors favoring longevity
The exhaustive observation of these "superlifers" shows that they adopt a healthy diet composed, for example, in Japan, of a lot of soy, fruits and vegetables, fish and seaweed. A diet rich in anti-oxidants, fiber, the enemy of cancer, and essential fatty acids. To a balanced diet, they choose to avoid refilling and prefer to stay hungry, they keep away from sugar and fat. They drink little or no alcohol and consume green tea in large quantities.
They are physically active, but also intellectually interested in many subjects and have passions that stimulate their faculties of attention, concentration, reflection and memory, so they can keep a social role.
The number of men and women who have passed the century mark is estimated at more than
560 000 on the globe (4 times more women than men) (3). Specialists believe that we are witnessing
a real "longevity revolution" since in the space of eight generations (about 200 years), life expectancy has doubled. It has increased in Great Britain and France at a rate of two years per decade. Thus, for every hour that passes, our life span potentially increases by 12 minutes, or 5 hours per day! Longevity or the extension of the life span of a living being has become, with global warming, one of the main challenges of our societies, for economic reasons.
On a personal level, the living example of these centenarians challenges me, stimulates me in the conduct of my life, as an incredible testimony of the strength of life and an example to follow. To live is to recognize and respect one's energy. Honoring life, cultivating it. Love seems to be behind everything as a tremendous energy. What is life but an incredible miracle? A miracle that is constantly renewed. Stay open to it and to what it can bring you. Never make the mistake of stopping to believe. Nothing is impossible. I love to believe in miracles and when I stop believing, the earth will no longer be my home...
Renée Archambault is a teacher and lecturer. She publishes articles and focuses her research on the themes of wellness and vitality. Her first book is in preparation, entitled: XXIe siècle, mode d'emploi.
To contact Renée Archambault : firstname.lastname@example.org
2. the centenarians of Okinawa (427/100,000 inhabitants) remain active and healthy during 97% of their life and it is only during their last years that serious diseases occur and that they are diminished (in The secrets of Okinawa, in www.ctendance.com)
3. France holds the world record for women's longevity: Jeanne Calment, who died at the age of 123 in 1997 and Japan for men, Shigechiyo Izumi, who died at the age of 120 years and 237 days.