From the Archive: Old Age on Ikaria Island, Greece

Armenistis, Ikaria Island, Greece. © www.thomaspickard.com

Armenistis, Ikaria Island, Greece. © www.thomaspickard.com

I have a penchant for the Greek Islands. I first visited them when I was nine or ten years of age. I have vague memories of incredible ferry trips, hot days spent at beautiful beaches with calm waters and long nights sleeping on stone washed roofs under the stars. Then there was the food and of course ouzo, the local spirit made from aniseed.

One day at a taverna, I accidentally grabbed a carafe of clear looking liquid, thinking it was water. As I took a swig from my glass, I recoiled at the horrible taste of the clear liquid. The old ladies with their wise old faces laughed hysterically when they realised I had grabbed a carafe of ouzo to drink.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I am back in the Greek Islands. This time around I am island hopping through the Aegean Sea off the coast of Turkey. One of the islands I end up spending a week on, is the beautifully barren Ikaria Island.

While I didn’t know it at the time, Ikaria Island is a special place - it is one of the few places in the world, where over thirty percent of the population live beyond ninety years of age. National Geographic Fellow, Dan Buettner has spent considerable time on Ikaria Island researching what it is about the place, that leads to such long lives. The result of his research is a book called The Blue Zones, which condenses his research into meaningful habits to prolong your life.

Though I am yet to read Dan’s book, The Guardian has a great travel article about Ikarian’s and longevity. Check it out - The Island of Long Life on The Guardian.

And if you are going to visit the Greek islands, make sure you spend some time on Ikaria. The people are friendly, the local food is amazing (home made goat stew anyone?), the scenery is spectacular and the water wonderfully warm.