I don’t know how she does it, but my grandmother is still active and on the move at 96 years old. An avid butter-eater and comfort food aficionado her entire life, it’s safe to say that eating a diet solely of kale and quinoa are not the only factors of providing one with a long and healthy life. While eating healthy does provide a pivotal role, she and many other seniors aged 90-101 actually share the same traits. Could this be the reason for their longevity?
A recent study published by in International Psychogeriatrics, explored and analyzed the mental and physical health of twenty-nine Italian citizens aged 90-101. The study focused on the Cilento region which is known for having a high percentage of citizens over the age of 90.
Each participant filled out standardized questions and took part in an interview which explored migration, traumatic events and beliefs. Their younger family members were also asked about what personality traits they believed their older relatives possessed.
According to the younger relatives, the older relatives were described as controlling, stubborn, and overbearing with the ability to adapt to changing situations and resilience.
It makes sense. Dr. Dilip Jeste, senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging at the UC San Diego School of Medicine and senior author on the study states: “These people have been through depressions, they’ve been through migrations, they’ve lost loved ones.”
Dr. Jeste goes on to say, “In order to flourish, they have to be able to accept and recover from the things they can’t change, but also fight for the things they can.”
In essence, these 90-101 adults have grown stronger because of their resilience and their ability to change at a moment’s notice. They have be present during World War II, the Great Depression, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, and watched the first American satellite launch. They lived through Watergate, the breakup of Soviet Union and the horror of the September 11th attacks. And still live to this day to witness history almost a decade later.
Other qualities the adults in their 90-101s possess include positivity, a strong work ethic and close bonds with family, religion and the countryside. Most of the adults in the study are still fairly active, working in their home or on their land.
My grandmother was born on a rural farm in Minnesota, working the farm as she grew up and started her own family. She faced hardships and grief, but there’s one thing for sure she possesses: stubbornness and the ability to change at a moment’s notice. And we can’t forget that comfort food.