for National Geographic News
At the age of 102, Abuela Panchita is still a social butterfly.
The centenarian, who lives on Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula, has a solid support network of friends and family, which includes a son in his eighties who visits her every morning on his bicycle.
Her age and sociability are no coincidence, said Dan Buettner, an explorer and book author who has studied Panchita and other elderly Costa Ricans.
"We know that people who make it to a hundred tend to be nice," he said.
"They drink from the fountain of life by being likeable and drawing people to them."
Buettner has explored and studied the world's centenarian hot spots—which he calls blue zones—over the past several years. The findings appear in a new book, The Blue Zone: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest.
(Buettner has also received funding from the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)
After scouring the globe, Buettner has found several basic threads that connect the longest-lived: a plant-based diet; regular, low-intensity activity; an investment in family; a sense of faith; and purpose.
(Read about Buettner's work in National Geographic Magazine.)
Nowhere is a strong sense of purpose more acute, he said, than in Japan, where the concept has its own name: ikigai.
Okinawa, Japan, boasts the longest-lived women in the world and has the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES