Old age is a joy! American researcher Dan Buettner decided to solve the Ikaria islanders’ longevity mystery. To this end, he went to Ikaria in 2008 and asked questions to local doctors, of whom there are very few here. One of them, Dr. Leriadis, told Buettner about the peculiarities of the way of life of the aborigines. They go to bed late and wake up late, but this does not prevent them from taking a nap several times during the day. The doctor always comes to work after 11 o’clock, he knows: there will simply be no patients before.
Time doesn’t really matter to the Ikaria islanders at all: Almost no one wears a watch on Ikaria. Therefore, guests invited to lunch may well show up in the interval from 10 to 18 hours. And no one is stressed by being late. To celebrate an event, people on Ikaria throw off and set the table together. What is fundamentally different from the inhabitants of the neighboring island of Samos, where personal material prosperity is put at the forefront.
Perhaps this attitude to life has developed historically. The island initially found itself in some isolation. Due to strong winds, ships practically did not enter here, there were no harbors, which means that trade routes passed far away. And only in the middle of the 20 century, after the civil war ended in Greece, several thousand communists and radicals were exiled here. But even these residents quickly calmed down and adopted the island philosophy.
In his story, Leriadis mentioned the habit of the Ikarians to brew and drink decoctions of marjoram, sage, mint, rosemary, or dandelion with lemon: a glass for a fading sleep. And honey here is considered a panacea for all diseases, especially one local variety, which treats everything from hangovers to colds.
In order to prevent all age, islanders necessarily eat a spoonful of this honey in the morning on an empty stomach. And who knows, maybe thanks to him, they live a full life: a 95-year-old man takes violin lessons, and a 98-year-old lady keeps a guest house and plays cards with her friends on weekends for fun.
Through life together
Remembering that it is better to see once than to hear a hundred times, Buettner went to visit a couple with 75 years of experience: Thanasis and Eirini Karimalis, and they struck him with their cordiality. Eirini, without even asking the name of the unexpected visitor, immediately offered him tea and cookies, and Thanasis kept trying to clean up the house in order to better receive the guest.
The Karimalis turned out to be very talkative. They told Buettner that they met in the 1920s, got married, and had five children. In short, they didn’t even notice how they lived side by side for 75 years. To get the latest stories, install our app here.
They never set the alarm to wake up. They got up whenever they wanted… went to work, raised children… Now they have grown up, and Thanasis and Eirini live together – in complete harmony. They do not bother to work in the garden — they dig in the beds when the desire arises. They dine late and are not averse to sleeping after a meal. In the evenings, they usually receive guests or visit friends themselves. The company jokes, have fun, drink wine. Their daily diet includes goat’s milk, sage broth, coffee, honey, bread, various legumes, vegetables from their garden, and, of course, wine.
The Karimalis keep several pigs: each of them has its own name. Animals are rarely stabbed, as a rule, on big holidays, and then they eat meat for a very long time — in small portions.
We forget… to die
In order to thoroughly study the phenomenon of the longevity of the Ikarians, several scientists joined a group at the University of Athens, and 673 inhabitants of the island agreed to become “guinea pigs”.
The researchers suggested that the reason for longevity could be the eating habits of the islanders, which is just right to envy. Judge for yourself: people on Ikaria use a lot of olive oil, which lowers cholesterol, vegetables are grown here, and honey.
They eat little dairy products, except goat’s milk, as well as meat, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, but drinking coffee and two or three glasses of wine a day on the island is considered the norm. In addition, Ikarians consume little sugar and do not use white flour at all. Bread is baked here only from whole wheat… But here is a paradox: the inhabitants of neighboring Samos are on exactly the same diet, but their life does not get longer from this.
Maybe it’s genetics? Alas, even here, the researchers were disappointed: nothing extraordinary could be found in the DNA of the Ikarians. To get the latest stories, install our app here.
Most likely, the secret of the islanders’ longevity lies in the combination of a number of factors. They eat right, sleep a lot, breathe clean air, have sex regularly. Envy in silence: 80% of the population of Ikaria aged 65 to 100 years regularly have sex, and there is nothing to say about young people.
Regardless of the number of years they have lived, the islanders are mobile, and after dinner with their neighbors, they dance and sing with pleasure. But the most important thing is that there is an atmosphere of some kind of extraordinary unity on the island, people feel protected.
Having studied somewhere on the mainland, local youth tend to return home to Ikaria: for them, adults, it is considered the norm to live with their parents. There is almost no crime here: everyone is in each other’s sight and is afraid of shaming their family. If someone’s child behaves badly, not only parents, but also neighbors can take care of his upbringing, and this is in the order of things. There is no loneliness, hunger, or poverty.
Neighbors will help in everything, feed, support. Therefore, in response to a request to share the secret of longevity, the old-timers of Ikaria certainly smile, mention the clean air of the island and wine, and then add: “We just forget to die.” And some still tell the story of Stamatis Moraitis, which has become literally textbook on the island.
In 1943, the Ikarian Stamatis Moraitis settled in the USA, in the community where his compatriots lived. There he got married, had three children, and built a house. In 1976, Moraitis was diagnosed with lung cancer. According to doctors’ forecasts, the 70-year-old man had less than a year to live, and then he decided to return to Ikaria to be buried there in the cemetery among his relatives, and funerals on the island cost 10 times cheaper than in America.
When he returned, he and his wife settled in the house of their parents. Stamatis spent most of his time in bed, as American doctors advised, and on Sundays, he attended a small church where his grandfather once served as a priest. Old friends visited Moraitis every day, and they spent a long time over a bottle of wine. The man felt as happy as it was possible in his condition.
After a few months, he not only did not die, but also began to work a little in the garden. Six months later, having gathered his harvest, Moraitis began to help his neighbors. With age, his health only improved. He added two more rooms to his parent’s house so that the children had somewhere to come, increased the area of vineyards, made 400 gallons of wine a year… To get the latest stories, install our app here.
When Moraitis turned 97, he finally realized that the disease had receded. However, he decided to make sure about the lung disease, he traveled to the USA — to ask his attending doctors if the cancer could disappear by itself, without drugs and chemotherapy. But it turned out that Stamatis simply had no one to talk to: all his doctors had already died…