What it’s like living on a Greek island where people live longer than just about anywhere else


Many of us hope to live long, fruitful and healthy lives. And some of us, in the end, are more successful at that pursuit than others. But there are several regions around the world that have been found to foster those kinds of lives more than others. At least, that’s what New York Times best-selling author and National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner determined after studying the work of two researchers. In a study published by the Journal of Experimental Gerontology, Gianni Pes and Michael Poulain identified Sardinia as the region with the highest concentration of male centenarians. Buettner, along with a team of researchers and demographers, found other regions where they determined that people lived longer, including Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Loma Linda, Calif.; and a small, out-of-the-way Greek island called Ikaria.

Photographer Lily Bungay became intrigued by Ikaria and decided to see what life was like for its residents. What she found was an island where people enjoy activities such as beekeeping and growing their own vegetables. Bungay says that, “Ikarians are more likely to celebrate their 100th birthday with the whole village, than to be segregated from their community. Institutional care homes do not exist on the island, but instead, every individual home is cared for.”

Bungay’s exploration of Ikaria was fueled by her interest in aging and “how we talk about (and don’t talk about) and visualize older people.” The result of her exploration came to fruition in a project she calls “a visual ode to the residents I met, their landscape, diet and the magical feeling that time is irrelevant on the island . . . Recurring shapes and whispers of Greek mythology are punctuated by the stories of characters found living in the mountains. This is not an attempt to uncover the secret to the islanders' longevity, but rather, to trace the unhurried rhythms of a community where every person is valued and included, no matter their age."

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