Saturday, 25 September 2010

Longevity (Μακροζωία)

A bit of food for thought, before I draw a winner for my previous post for a $35 voucher* from* - don't forget to leave a comment there!

The following text has been taken from Wikipedia: "The word longevity is sometimes used as a synonym for 'life expectancy' in demography, or to connote 'long life'. Reflections on longevity have usually gone beyond acknowledging the brevity of human life and have included thinking about methods to extend life. Longevity has been a topic not only for the scientific community but also for writers of travel, science fiction, and utopian novels.

"A remarkable statement mentioned by Diogenes Laertius (c. 250 AD) is the earliest (or at least one of the earliest) references about plausible centenarian longevity given by a scientist, the astronomer Hipparchus of Nicea (c. 185 – c. 120 BC), who, according to the doxographer, was assured that the philosopher Democritus of Abdera (c. 470/460 – c. 370/360 BC) lived 109 years. All other accounts given by the ancients about the age of Democritus appear, without giving any specific age, to agree that the philosopher lived over 100 years. This possibility is likely, given that many ancient Greek philosophers are thought to have lived over the age of 90 (e.g., Xenophanes of Colophon, c. 570/565 – c. 475/470 BC, Pyrrho of Ellis, c. 360 – c. 270 BC, Eratosthenes of Cirene, c. 285 – c. 190 BC, etc.). The case of Democritus is different from the case of, for example, Epimenides of Crete (7th, 6th centuries BC), who is said to have lived 154, 157 or 290 years, as has been said about countless elders even during the last centuries as well as in the present time. These cases are not verifiable by modern means.

"Various factors contribute to an individual's longevity. Significant factors in life expectancy include gender, genetics, access to health care, hygiene, diet and nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, and crime rates. Men often have a lower life expectancy than women, while some countries fare better than others in longevity rates. Population longevities can be seen as increasing due to increases in life expectancies around the world.

"Recent increases in the rates of lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, may drastically slow or reverse this trend toward increasing life expectancy in the developed world. Since 1840, record life expectancy has risen linearly for men and women, albeit more slowly for men. For women the increase has been almost three months per year. In light of steady increase, without any sign of limitation, the suggestion that life expectancy will top out must be treated with caution.

"Scientists observe that experts who assert that 'life expectancy is approaching a ceiling ... have repeatedly been proven wrong.' It is thought that life expectancy for women has increased more dramatically due to the considerable advances in medicine related to childbirth. Some argue that molecular nanotechnology will greatly extend human life spans. If the rate of increase of life span can be raised with these technologies to a level of twelve months increase per year, this is defined as effective biological immortality and is the goal of radical life extension."

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The average Greek enjoys a long life expectancy, close to 79 years on average. Women are more likely to live longer than men by up to 5 years. This makes our old people highly visible in society. You see old men congregated in kafeneia, just sitting in probably their favorite seat, sipping on a Greek coffee (the cheapest one available in a kafeneio). Banks are another popular hangout for old people (they used to come in from the cold and warm themselves up in the large lobby, until the double doors with security locks put a stop to this practice). Women wearing their traditional black widows' garb, carrying a functional black leatherette handbag, their gray hair cut short or piled high in a bun, wait patiently for their turn to take their pension. Doctors' surgeries (both public and private offices) are often teeming with old people waiting to get a prescription filled or have their blood pressure checked.

How visible are old people where you live?

Their clothes, their voices, their position at the table, their special chair in a living room all point to old people's seniority and their unique position in the family. Our old people often live in the same house as their children, maybe in a small self-contained unit in the same building. Old people's homes are not the norm in Crete; besides, they are too expensive for the average Greek and may require a certain financial commitment before being accepted into one. This is not a sign of an undeveloped nation; Greece shares this situation with very influential ones.

When old people can't be cared for directly by their family (eg they live in a village and prefer not to leave the area where they lived all their lives), they are often looked after by live-in carers who are paid out of the pension of the old person or by the person's family.

The Mediterranean diet, a high reliance on olive oil and a generally more relaxed lifestyle are all said to contribute to the longevity of Cretan people. But new factors, such as a higher incidence of cancer (blamed on pollutants), a rise in coronary disease (blamed on the shift from the traditional diet to globalised food trends) and a more sedentary lifestyle coupled with road traffic accidents is threatening this tradition of longevity.

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