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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Longevity in Okinawa: A Model for Treasuring Old Age

As Western culture prepares for the growing aging population, we search for models of how to find the fountain of youth and integrate meaning and value into the “third age.” Which societies are doing it right? Where can we find role models to show us the way? One example is on the island of Okinawa.

The Japanese live longer than anyone else, and Okinawans live longer than anyone else in Japan. According to the Okinawa Centenarian Study website, there are fifty centenarians for every 100,000 islanders in Okinawa, whereas the United States has about ten to twenty centenarians for the same number of its population.

The Okinawa Centenarian Study found more than nine hundred verifiable centenarians. Not only do Okinawans experience impressively long life spans, but their older population has admirably good health and enjoys independence into their seventies, eighties, and nineties.

Okinawa is an island archipelago region of Japan in the East China Sea where the average life expectancy is just over eighty-two years (almost seventy-eight for men and eighty-six 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. life span. Okinawans are three to seven times more likely to live to one hundred than Americans. As impressive as Okinawan longevity is, however, what is of equal—if not more—interest is the quality of health most older adults in Okinawa enjoy. Heart disease, cancer, dementia, diabetes, and other conditions considered par for the course in older people in North America are rare in Okinawa.

What is their secret? What is the fabric for their long life? To get a better feel for a typical day in the life of an Okinawan older adult, connect with the following YouTube documentary, Okinawan Longevity and Health.

Erika T. Walker, MBA, MSeD, CSA, is owner and CEO of SAGE WAVE Consulting, LLC, in Greer, South Carolina. She conducts strategic planning with businesses and communities across the country to help them prepare for the growing aging population. She has served as director of the SAGE Institute, and director of geriatrics at Greenville Hospital system. Contact her at 864-313-9691, or visit

Longevity in Okinawa: A Model for Treasuring Old Age was featured in CSA Journal 63.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors.