Walking, friendship and tiramisu: Genoa’s centenarians share secrets of longevity

September 30 2019 - GENOA, ITALY



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Article published by The Guardian

The Italian city is home to nearly 300 centenarians – and this number is rising fast. Three women shed light on life beyond 100.

Adele Corsanego goes to a gym class three mornings a week and is always up for a party. She drinks wine with every meal, and eats pasta, cheese and tiramisu. She is 108 years old. “I’ve always been very active,” she told the Guardian in an interview at the David Chiossone nursing home in Genoa. “I walked and cycled a lot, and played tennis for most of my life.” Scientists often turn to Italy in their quest to explain why there are so many sprightly people living beyond 100. The number reaching the milestone is rising: according to data released this summer by Istat, the national statistics agency, Italy is home to 14,456 centenarians, up from 11,000 in 2009.

As of early September, Genoa was home to about 288 centenarians, the majority of them women. This is expected to rise to 350 over the next few months as people reach their 100th birthday. “Genoa has a strange combination of things,” said Valter Longo, a Genoa native and director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California. “The birth rate is low, lots of elderly people move there from other regions, the climate is warm, healthcare system good … then there’s the diet, of which fish and fresh vegetables have always been a staple part, and so you’ll have some people making it to 105.”

“The problem is not so much an ageing population but having too few young people,” said Andrea Chiappori, the president of Sant’Egidio’s Genoa branch. “This makes people think negatively towards elderly people as they are seen as a burden. It should instead be a good problem – living a long life should reflect that the quality of life and social system are good.”