Being in the business of providing in-home care to seniors, we found early on that aging adults and their loved ones were hungry for knowledge on what factors enable some adults to live longer, happier and healthier lives than others. While there is no single explanation for why some people live longer and more productive years than others, there is one place on earth that has been called the ideal place for aging: Okinawa.
Okinawa is an island in the archipelago region of Japan in the East China Sea where the average life expectancy is just over 82 years (78 years for men and 86 years for women). This is over a year longer than in the rest of Japan and almost 4.5 years longer than the average U.S. lifespan; Okinawans are 3 to 7 times more likely to live to 100 than Americans. Perhaps even more noteworthy than the average Okinawan lifespan, is the quality of health most elders of Okinawa enjoy. Studies have found that genetic factors only account for about one third of the Okinawan elders' extraordinary health and longevity. Heart disease, cancer, dementia, diabetes, and other conditions considered par for the course in older people in North America are rare in Okinawan elders. Studies have found that such genetic factors only account for about one third of the Okinawan elders' extraordinary health and long life spans. Two-thirds of this enviable good health appears to be the result of diet, exercise, low stress levels, familial and community ties, social practices and spiritual beliefs. Each of these elements, just like the disorders and diseases they help prevent, feed on one another in a symbiotic relationship.
Home Care Assistance has developed a revolutionary and proprietary approach to senior care based on these centenarian studies called The Balanced Care MethodTM. Excellent physical health, mental awareness and inner calm are common among the studied elders. The Method seeks to capture some of the lifestyle factors that go towards creating such long-lived and healthy people. Its philosophy can be summed up in two words: moderation and variety.
A steady diet of mackerel, tempeh, seaweed, sweet potatoes, and green tea is probably not realistic for most Westerners. Neither is daily tai chi practice or walks between villages, yet there are many ways to implement the principles of the Okinawan lifestyle within a Western framework. All of our caregivers at Home Care Assistance are trained in the Balanced Care Method to help promote optimal wellbeing and quality of life for their client's. For those of you currently caring for a loved one, we will share some of the main lifestyle components that you can incorporate into your daily care routine:
The Balanced Care Method is a way of viewing aging as a rich and meaningful part of life. Each element - fostering independence, encouraging the maintenance of social ties, remaining active - supports and reinforces the others. The best lesson we can learn from the elders of Okinawa is to embrace and celebrate aging and approach it with a sense of balance and reverence. As we predict in our aging book, Happy to 102, expect to see bigger birthday cakes in the decades ahead!
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