how to live to 100?

Ikaria Island, Greece

Aristotelis Giakas, 87 years old

Nas, Ikaria Island, Greece
 

On the island of Ikaria, we never stop. We walk all day to take care of the olive trees, vines, fruit trees, the garden, the animals, etc. I think healthy food contributes to our longevity, but only in part. The sea air is fresh and the water is pure; it comes from mountain springs and contains no chemicals. Our lifestyle doesn’t make us anxious; unlike people in Athens and other cities. We live with the seasons and the harvest.

Sex is surely the best kept secret of Ikarian longevity. Here, even the centenarians are sexually active and are still very capable! Nothing in the world is more sublime than being ridden by a woman and there is no wrong age to enjoy such bliss. I won’t tell you if I have a lover or not because there is too much gossip on this island, but I can tell you that Mediterranean people are hot-blooded, the men as well as the women!

Nothing is sweeter, however, than making love to your own wife. You feel completely fulfilled, full of affection, happiness and ecstasy. Sex, without the feeling of love, is nowhere near as exquisite. I bitterly miss the time when my wife was alive.


Giorgos Stenos, 88 years old

Christos Raches, Ikaria Island, Greece

The longevity of Ikaria is certainly due to the fact that we eat local, organic, unpasteurized honey every day whose therapeutic properties are amazing.
When I was about 14 years old I read a book about bees and I discovered the incredible contribution of bees to ecology, thanks to pollination. When I was 18, I decided that I would dedicate my life to beekeeping. I could have been content as a honey merchant, but my philosophy is not to exploit nature excessively; I work in harmony with it instead by contributing to the balance of ecosystems
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The quality and price of honey have changed a lot over time. In the 1950s, sugar was worth almost twice as much as honey. We didn’t know the benefits of honey and it had no value. The pastry chefs used it only to save on the price of sugar. However, the wax brought in a little money because we were still lighting the cottages by candlelight.
Later, many studies have shown that we produce one of the best qualities of honey in the world. I have already tasted American honey and, without wanting to offend anyone, in terms of therapeutic properties, it is no better than corn syrup.

 

Here, the air and water are pure and our bees forage from a wide variety of bushes, trees, herbs and wild flowers. The rocky soil gives a lot of minerals to the plants and thus to the honey as well. There are no pesticides on the island and our bees have never been affected by the infections and diseases that plague bees around the world.
One must move the hives according to the seasons to give them access to the best plants. At the moment, my bees are in the South because it is warmer there and it is heather season, a therapeutic plant that’s the only one to be foraged in winter. In February I’m going to move them to another region of the island where there is a lot of sage and where the almond trees will be in bloom
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Giorgos Karoutsos, 92 years old

Nas, Ikaria Island, Greece

I have been married for 63 years and I am still very much in love with my wife. I wouldn’t be the man I am without her. I’ve always been crazy about her; I’ve always wanted to be by her side, accompany her wherever she goes, show her my affection by lavishing caresses and kisses on her. Unfortunately, young people today no longer want to make the effort that a lasting relationship requires. It is easier to break up with your partner than to invest the patience and work that marriage requires.

I present to you, in sum, the reasons for the longevity on the island of Ikaria: the air and water are pure, the food and the wine come directly from our small farms and contain no contaminants, stress is nonexistent, we walk constantly, we gather regularly with friends to eat, smoke, drink, dance, make music, play cards or go to the many events and festivals the community offers.
As a farmer, I have always been very active. I had to take care of the garden, vineyards, olive and other fruit trees, beehives, sheep, goats, cows, pigs, chickens, etc. Now I have a knee injury that keeps me from working, which I find extremely painful. I smoke a few cigarettes every day to comfort myself
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Ioanna Kochila, 84 years old

Nas, Ikaria Island, Greece

Life isn’t complicated around here. We eat almost exclusively what we produce. For everything else, the baker comes to deliver bread to us every morning and the fishmonger comes once a week.
I have been married to Ioannis Melis for 63 years. In order for a relationship to last, you must not bicker over trivial things and you have to get over small annoyances.

When your partner is angry, it’s best to shut up and wait for the dust to settle before talking to them about what’s bothering them. People put too much emphasis on little annoyances instead of letting them pass. It’s sad to see couples tearing themselves apart over pride. You shouldn’t wait until your partner is sick or dead before you realize how much they mean to you. My husband and I have been through hard times, but we love each other deeply.

Ioannis Melis, 88 years old

Nas, Ikaria Island, Greece

I have been crazy about my wife Ioanna Kochila since I met her. She has a good temper; she is logical, generous, gentle, smiling and she gets along with everyone. I’m never going anywhere without her. We love to go out together; we go to events and festivals in the surrounding villages. We’ve even traveled to Albania and Turkey before, which is pretty rare for locals.

We did not have children but we have so many friends. We visit friends every day when they don’t come to see us themselves. We get together to talk, drink, eat, smoke and play Backgammon. The precious thing about Ikaria is that people help each other a lot. We never lack for anything!


Zaxarias Pirudis, 99 years old

Plagia, Ikaria Island, Greece
 

Since I went blind, I can’t work as much as I used to, but I’m doing well. I don’t believe in God and the majority of people here don’t believe either. When I was eight, one of my teachers was a communist and introduced me to his ideology. When he was expelled from school, he had already made several disciples and his philosophy continued to spread across the island of Ikaria. At 13, I was expelled from school for reading Marxist literature. From that moment on, I became a fervent follower of communism and I still am today since the class struggle is far from won. My friends and family are activists, as are most of the people on our island, also known as the "Red Island".

When I was a young adult, during the war, I deserted the army and had to hide in the mountains for several years. I lived in a cave and ate practically nothing but prickly pears. Later, I was imprisoned and eventually sent into exile with other political prisoners on the island of Macronese. In 1951, I was released and became a farmer.
I’ve committed many excesses in my life. I had a restaurant for a while, but I had to close it because I was becoming an alcoholic. I also smoked a lot. I started smoking in prison because I was depressed and I smoked until I was 75. I stopped because of health problems. Today I go to the bar every night to chat with my friends, but I just drink two glasses of wine
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Lefteres Parikos, 87 years old

Plagia, Ikaria Island, Greece
 

We were twelve children in our household and life was hard; we had practically nothing to eat and my shoes were made of old pieces of tire. I had to walk two hours to go to school and I had no pencils or papers. When I was 8, schools closed due to the Italian occupation. Many people died of hunger during this period. I remember once we were so hungry that we dug up a rotting sheep to eat it. Nonetheless, I have fond memories of the Italian soldiers who shared their food with us children. Later, it was the German occupation. The German soldiers were much less friendly. Then there was the civil war in Greece and the communists were exiled to the island of Ikaria. They were welcomed with open arms by the inhabitants of the island who supported of the communist philosophy. I myself am a strong supporter. How can you not be when you are so poor? It’s the only party that stands up for us. 
From the 1950s, things got better on the island, but life is still difficult when you are illiterate. When I was younger, I ate very little meat because we were too poor and we didn’t have a refrigerator. Today I eat it about twice a week. I eat a lot of vegetables, fish and olive oil, but I have not been drinking wine since I got diabetes. On the other hand, I do drink grappa.
It’s certain that alcohol contributes to longevity. With my mother-in-law, we drank 1,000 litres of wine a year and she lived to be 100 years old. She never had enough alcohol in her blood. She also drank large amounts of cognac and grappa. I myself had breakfasted on bread and wine for a long time. We said that drinking in the morning gave one power.
Before I was married, I only thought about sex and I had several lovers. It was not a problem to make love without being married; Ikarian society is very tolerant. When I started my family, however, I stopped being so obsessed because I had to work to meet the needs of my children
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Marika Sardi, 88 years old

Nas, Ikaria Island, Greece

Reporters, doctors and students have come from all over the world to ask me questions about the longevity of Ikaria. These strangers are often flabbergasted by my openness and and warm welcome. It surprises them that I laugh so much, that I kiss them and that I take them in my arms. Perhaps the human warmth of the inhabitants of Ikaria is what keeps us alive so long?

Many things have changed here since the infatuation that has followed the discovery of the blue zones. There are no more than 50 residents of our village and, over the last few years, seven homes were bought by foreigners who come, for the most part, from various countries of the European Union. These were homes that had always belonged to the same families and that had been passed on from generation to generation. It is a little sad to say goodbye to our heritage.
That being said, I don’t complain. These new arrivals slowly adjust to our culture and, with time, become more open, warm and generous
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