Located in the East China Sea, Okinawa Island carries a proud reputation of being the healthiest island in the world. In 2016, records state that the island which is home to over 400 people makes up for senior citizens who are above of 100 with an average life expectancy of an Okinawan woman as 86, and man's as 78. So, what makes this island so special, why is it so senior citizen friendly? On World Senior Citizen’s Day, let us look at this small island in Japan that has the highest life expectancy rate in the world.
In addition to the lush green surroundings of nature which have been known to reduces anger, fear, and stress and increase pleasant feelings, the Okinawans’ secret to living long and healthy can be justly contributed to the food they eat and their attitude towards life. Their regular diet is based on rice, fish and vegetables.
The traditional Okinawa diet consists of food that are low in calories and fat while high in carbs. It includes vegetables and soy products alongside occasional — and small — amounts of noodles, rice, pork, and fish, plenty of tofu, vegetables such as bitter gourd (bitter melon) and sweet potato, which is extremely nutritious. It hence won’t be a surprise for you to encounter senior Okinawans working in their vegetable gardens, practising tai chi and riding bikes.
In addition to their food habits, their happy-life is also attribute to the social bonding the Okinawans highly value, "Okinawans are bonding, social animals, they spend a lot of time with family and friends, and they're incredibly supportive’’ said one US marine who met his Japanese wife in Okinawa to a traveling website, Traveller.
The island hence witnesses a decrease in cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease and depression.
But, is it just the food that is making the people of the island stay woke? For Okinawans retiring is a different term all together. The Okinawans believe in the value of work to food, which means that they hold up to the believe that working longer could actually help you live longer. This argument is definitely true for the people of Okinawa, and for Héctor Garcia who wrote the book Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life contributes their healthy life to ‘ikigai’ or ‘having a life purpose’.
Ikigai is thought of as "a reason to get up in the morning", meaning a reason to enjoy life. In a Ted Talk, National Geographic reporter Dan Buettner suggested ikigai as one of the reasons people in the area had such long lives.
“The world is getting more and more chaotic, and we need to be reminded of what is really important in life,” Garcia says. “Ikigai is one of those things that are really important to keep in mind specially when we feel that we are getting lost in our busy lives and chaotic world.”
So, yes, the secret to people in Okinawa living a healthy, long life has no magic potion behind it. It is just simply learning to appreciate the now-moment without having to fuss over the uncertain tomorrow. What do you think about Okinawans philosophy of life this World Senior Citizen's Day 2019?