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Can Friendship make you Live Longer?

An active social life can be just as good for you as a healthy diet or exercise (allegedly), says a report by CNN/CNN’s Vital Signs.

According to the UN, by 2050, the number of over 60s is expected to double – however, when examining the cause of this, scientists are beginning to realise that diet and exercise are not the only factors.

In the latest episode of Vital Signs with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN International, the programme hears that science is showing our social lives are just as important to living a longer life.

The programme reports from Tiana in Sardinia, Italy, which is home to male residents who are 10 times more likely to reach the age of 100 than the rest of Italy. CNN hears that studies are being undertaken in the UK and Italy that examine whether socialising, relationships and avoiding loneliness are directly connected to an increase in life expectancy.

According to Doctor Gianni Pes, there are four regions in the world characterised by longevity – Japan, Costa Rica, Greece and Sardinia, a term he has coined as ‘Blue Zones’, which is used to identify villages with demographics like Tiana.

Vital Signs also heads to a new retirement home in South London which combines one of the UK’s largest care centres with a nursery school. The project is the first of its kind in the country and allows the children to work and play with the residents every day.

The project initially began as an attempt to bridge the age divide, but instead has injected a new lease of life into the residents, many of which suffer with advanced levels of dementia, by encouraging them to engage with the children and forgetting their own physical limitations.

Dr. Gianni Pes on why studies have now moved beyond analysing diet and health to other factors:

“20 years ago, everyone was convinced that the explanation was genetic. The Sardinian population is well known for a gap in the genetic background, because we have an isolated population, so, we have explored many genetics, but I was disappointed. Now I learnt to move to a broader approach, adopting a multidisciplinary approach.”

Professor Sarah Harper from the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing explains to CNN why researchers are considering psychology as just as important as our physical health:

“What we’re beginning to realize is that it isn’t just food and exercise which is important. The social world we live in is really important. Social connectivity both within ones own peers, within a family, between generations. We know that in many ways that can have almost the same effect as living a good life, eating well, not smoking, not drinking too much alcohol.”

Judith Ish-Horowicz, the founder of the Apples and Honey Nightingale intergenerational nursery, outlines the impact this initiative has had for the residents and children alike:

“Children are very non-judgemental. They’re very accepting and they’re also very interested and very creative. They see things often from rather quirky directions…. The children, because of their stories, because of their experiences and their memories of meeting and playing and talking and sharing with the residents here, they’re going to keep the memories of those residents, many of whom have not got other children to keep their memories alive.”

…………………………………..

Feature courtesy: CNN / CNN’s Vital Signs

Vital Signs with Dr. Sanjay Gupta airs on CNN International at the following times:

Saturday 3rd February at 06: 30, 12:30, 19:30

Sunday 4th February at 06: 30, 12:30, 19:30

Photo credit: Luigi Corda

[cnn.com/specials/health/vital-signs]cnn.com/specials/health/vital-signs


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