Market breaks to destinations with the seemingly healthiest lifestyles, says Debbie Marshall, managing director of Silver Travel Advisors

Late last year I attended a talk about the ageing process by Angela Rippon, whose legs and newsreading skills are what most people remember her for (possibly in that order).

Now aged 72, her days as anchor on the Nine O’Clock News are long in the past, although her legs still look fabulous. Working hard, and with no plans to slow down, Angela has more recently been presenting a BBC series entitled How to Stay Young.

Healthy lifestyles are good, stress is bad; well, we all know that. And of course, we should be dancing vegans who stroke dogs, play ping-pong and do Sudoku puzzles every day to have a chance of getting past 65 with our marbles intact.

In search of the elixir of youth


However, what attracted my interest in Angela’s talk was her description of her travels in search of the elixir of youth. This led me to find out where the top destinations are around the globe when it comes to longevity, and to reflect whether there might be opportunities to develop tourism with a different focus in these areas.

Okinawa, Japan, has the highest life expectancy and more centenarians than anywhere in the world. It’s not just the diet of raw fish and green tea – scientists believe it’s down to the vast quantities of locally grown purple sweet potatoes, which are a daily staple.

Second place in the longevity stakes is Loma Linda, California, a community that includes about 9,000 Seventh-day Adventists, a religious group that is significantly longer-lived than the average American. A vegetarian diet and absence of alcohol and smoking appear to be the secret here; not much fun.
Back in Europe, Sardinian men – mostly farmers and shepherds – are particularly long-lived, partly for genetic reasons and partly because they follow a healthy Mediterranean diet, consuming lots of goats’ cheese and milk.

The fourth hotspot is the remote Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica where a man aged 60 has about twice the chance of reaching 90 than a man living in the US. They also have an unusually low rate of cancer. The secret? A physically active lifestyle and a diet of nutrient-rich foods such as beans, corn and rice, and also water that’s naturally high in calcium and magnesium.

In fifth position is Ikaria, a Greek island 35 miles off the coast of Turkey where people are three times more likely to reach 90 than Americans. There are 20% fewer cases of cancer, half the rate of cardiovascular disease and almost no dementia. Boasting mineral hot springs, Ikaria has been a health destination for centuries, and its residents stay active, eat a lot of wild greens and drink herbal tea.

Find a new niche


So here is a thought for agents and operators looking for a new way to promote these destinations to the mature market: could some of your older clients be interested in finding out about longevity and why some people live longer than others? This could be the opportunity to organise trips and activities to experience different lifestyles around the globe. So why not promote travel to places that hold the key to the secrets of longevity? I’m sure Angela would approve.