The reason? Funerals were much cheaper in Ikaria, Greece, from where he came from. He and his wife moved in with his parents, and he waited to die. Spring turned to summer, and summer turned to fall. Instead of dying he felt better. Slowly his health continued to improve and he came to the realization that he was not dying after all. Today more than 35 years later Moraitis is 97 years old and still alive.
The story of Moraitis would be nothing more than an inspiring tale except that the island of Ikaria is now known as the “Island where people forget to die”. People on this island reach their 90’s at two and half times the rate of those in the US and the rate of dementia is one fourth. People here are living longer and having a better quality of life.
Scientists have been studying residents of Ikaria and other similar pockets of population all over the world where longevity is unusually long. (This includes the Japanese island of Okinawa and Loma Linda in California.) Here is what they have found:
1. Active life style
Scientists are seeing one common thread in all communities where people live exceptionally long: living an active life. People in these communities are up and about. Climbing over hills and walking long distances is part of their daily chores.
2. Strong Social connections
Social and family bonds are very strong in such communities. Families stay together or close by. There is a culture of interdependence in the community and people naturally come to each other’s aide. In Ikaris there is no word for “privacy”.
3. Low pressure life style
A consistent finding is that the stress level in communities with exceptional longevity is much less compared to other normal communities. Attitudes towards wealth and status are laid back. The elderly are respected and loved, and sought for their wisdom.
4. Healthy sex life after 65
Couples usually remain married for life and if a partner dies the surviving partner quickly remarries. Couples have sex well into old age.
5. No skimping on sleep
Napping in the afternoon is common. Sleeping habits are very healthy with regular waking and sleeping hours. It is common to see a pattern of sleeping for 7-8 hours at night followed by an hour or two of nap during the afternoon.
6. Positive attitude
Exceptionally long-lived people have a special attitude. They smile easily, are quick to forgive, and are not hyper competitive. They have a cooperative mindset and have a happy and optimistic orientation.
7. Predominantly plant based diet
Meat eating is either absent or not dominant part of the diet. If meat is present in the diet, it is produce of the local farm, portion size is small and no more frequent than once or twice a week. In communities where olive oil is part of the diet it is mainly used as a topping in unheated form. Milk is not part of the normal diet with the exception of yogurt.
8. No processed foods and no sugar
Processed food and added sugar is completely absent from the diet. A daily spoonful of honey may be consumed as a medicine or tonic in some communities. Whole grains, vegetables, lentils, and pulses dominate the diet, with fish being added in some cases.
9. Herbs as food and medicine
Locally grown herbs are part of the regular diet. Rather than consuming pills for daily ailments herbal teas are used instead.
The story of Moraitis is not really about living long, instead it is about living a full, loving, and connected life. What we see from such stories is that long life is almost an after effect if you are having love and joy in your life.