The secret of a long life

The secret of a long life

The Ogimi Village in Japan is called The Village of Long Life. The statistics of Ogimi village contradict the general pattern of old age, which is usually associated with a plethora of ailments. Consider this: of the 3500 residents in the village, 1056 people are over 65 and there are 80 people aged more than 90. The secret of Ogimi village’s longevity lies in the lifestyle of its inhabitants. Most of the older people live on their own or with their spouse, enjoying a balanced lifestyle amid rich natural surroundings in a close-knit community. In spite of being very old, these people are by no means shunned by society. Rather, they live in a community of mutual care and assistance, with frequent visits to and from with their children and grandchildren in the cities.

Senior citizens can enjoy the same good health and high-quality life described above anywhere in the world. They only need the love, support and understanding of their family and the community. Take the example of our own senior citizen from Thane, Mrs Parvatibai Sadashiv Kelkar, who completed 100 years on October 16, 2004. With the health she enjoys at 100, Kelkar would give an inferiority complex to people who are decades younger than her. She is free from most old-age ailments. She has perfect eyesight, no diabetes, a blood pressure of a 25-year-old, a strong heart, and a powerful memory. She has mobility problems, and can’t move as freely possible, but that is mostly because of slowing down reflexes. She attributes her good health to an active life and good eating habits. "In those days, we consumed healthy, home made food, farm fresh fruits and vegetables and were very active. Besides, we lived a relatively easy life, with far less stress as compared to today."
One significant factor that has contributed to her sound health is her loving family. On her 100th birthday, her family celebrated the occasion with enthusiasm. 30 teachers from Vartak Nagar Madhyamilk Vidyala in Shastri Nagar, where Kelkar’s daughter-in-law Jyoti teaches, felicitated Kelkar by presenting her with a garland made of five rupee notes. Kelkar also cut a huge cake to mark the occasion. Later, the teachers, including Principal Jayshree Jog, listened in awe as veteran narrated a few gripping episodes of her life. For instance, her late husband, Sadashiv Vinayak Kelkar, was a freedom fighter and consequently, great patriots like Yeswantrao Chavan and freedom fighter Krantisingh Nana Patil (known for founding the shadow government) visited the Kelkar’s.

Kelkar’s progeny is remarkable. She has five sons and three daughters, 17 grandchildren and more than 25 great grandchildren. Kelkar lives with her youngest son Chandrakant and appreciates her daughter-in-law Jyoti’s selfless dedication in caring for her.

The story of centenarian Kelkar is as real as the stories of abuse and exploitation of elders across the world. The situation in developing nations like India is worse. Our country had 77 million "grey population" in 2001 as compared to 12 million in 1901. The number is expected to grow to 25 million by 2025. While we have NGOs like Helpage India trying to work for benefit of the elderly, we also require a shift in mass consciousness about our attitude towards the elders. Instead of looking upon them as a liability, we can regard them has treasure trove of wisdom and experience. By giving our elders love and respect, we can make the whole world like the Japanese village, where health, joy and old age coexist.

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