If you’re planning on being one of the 1 million centenarians projected to be living in the U.S. in 2050, you might want to take your lifestyle cues from Stamatis Moraitis, a Greek veteran of World War II.
Diagnosed with lung cancer while living in the U.S. in the 1960s, Moraitis forewent chemotherapy and drugs and, still more, the entire Western diet and lifestyle and moved to the Greek island of Ikaria, his birthplace.
Living the simple life of the Ikarians, who reach the age of 90 at two-and-a-half times the rate of Americans, Moraitis lived another 45 years cancer-free — outliving his doctors, who gave him just nine months to live.
A new report titled “The Four Keys to Longevity” produced by BMO Wealth Institute for clients of BMO Harris Financial Advisors cites a study of these long-living Ikarians, combined with its own survey of 1,000 Americans on aging, to present a view of what might constitute successful longevity.
The first of those keys, what BMO calls the “master key,” is the body. Observing that “stress factors such as daily schedules don’t exist on Ikaria” and that “vigorous activities [are] never considered exercise,” the BMO report finds that most Americans (89 percent) have taken steps to help them live longer.
The most common initiative is healthy eating (53 percent), though Americans may have a way to go before reaching the Ikarian diet of “fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices and local honey, which are all products of weekly harvests that every citizen contributes to and benefits from.”
The second key, which BMO dubs “the fundamental key,” is the mind. BMO’s survey found that “the loss of mental ability was the biggest concern that respondents had about living to 100 and beyond.”
The report cited research that aerobic exercise and not smoking were related to cognitive function and stressed the importance of maintaining an active mind through memory, reasoning and speed-of-processing training, as well as engagement in social networks through work or volunteer activities.
The third key, dubbed “the key to enjoying life” in the BMO report, is social. Citing research that found “retirement to be associated with a significant increase in clinical depression and a decline in self-assessed health,” the report looked at social connectedness as a means to avoiding these risks.
Survey respondents expressed a number activities they desired in retirement to achieve this aim, with spending more time on hobbies leading the pack (62 percent), followed by taking on a part-time job (25 percent).