THE METHUSELAH FACTORS: Living Long and Living Well by Dan Georgakas

THE METHUSELAH FACTORS: Living Long and Living Well

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We've been hoodwinked by the Hunzakuts, bamboozled by the Vilcabambans, conned by the Caucasians, says Georgakas, in this earnest endeavor to set the longevity record straight. All those tales of folks alive and kicking at 140 are indeed tales--tall ones spread by the media, the yogurt ads, the villagers themselves who enjoy lying ""upwards."" It's not hard to produce the evidence, or lack of it, either. Same-name sons or daughters taking on their parents' birth-dates; interviews in which the age varies to suit the teller's mood. In some cases, too, the group involved (e.g., the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico) has no calendar and does not keep track of years. What it all means is that human beings are credulous, and so myths of Shangri-la persist. Instances closer at hand are also exaggerated, however--like the disproportionate number of elderly English townsfolk in Sheringham and Cambridgeshire. (Turns out the young people have left and the locale appeals to retirees.) Still, the people in many of these storied places are worthy of examination. There are hearty citizens of 80 and upward; in the case of the Hunza peoples, there are rugged elders who can walk 40 miles a day at high altitudes and cold temperatures. What are they doing right? In the second part of the book, Georgakas examines some of the coincident variables: lean, if not hungry, looks; lots of physical activity; self-esteem and esteem of the elderly; no such thing as retirement; meat not proscribed, but lots of fresh fruits and vegetables (the Abkhasians of the Caucasus won't eat leftovers). So Georgakas turns prescriptive, suggesting a longevity agenda including most of the above. Nothing he urges is overly faddist, though he tends to wax enthusiastic and optimistic, in contrast to Part I, and to incline toward believing what he hears (e.g., foods rich in choline are good for memory). In sum, high marks for his excellent dispatching of the myths and generally sane and sensible advice, and a few points off for too-easy acceptance of some of the data reported in Part II.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Simon & Schuster