Record age: how to become as old as possible? A centenarian reveals his secret

How to become as old as possible? A centenarian reveals his secret

Chengmai County on China's Hainan Island is home to more than 200 people who are 100 years old and older. Li Shaoqian is one of them

He has been married for 80 years, has 30 grandchildren and has drunk a lot of liquor in his life. Now Li Shaoqian has turned 100. Not so difficult, he says.

Li Shaoqian has just celebrated his 100th birthday. Birthday celebrated. His wife and some of the 30 grandchildren were also there. Now it’s back to everyday life for him and his family.

On normal days, Li still walks miles around his village every day. There is only one thing that worries him at the moment: his 98-year-old wife, to whom he has been married for 80 years, has problems with her legs and can no longer come along on the daily walks. Li lives on Hainan Island in the South China Sea. A place where people grow old in a special way.

On Hainan, in turn, Chengmai County stands out: Over 200 of its 560000 residents are over 100 years old. This means that there are 17 times more ancient people living there than the Chinese average. In the small village of Luoyi, which is part of Chengmai, the statistical outlier is even more pronounced: the number of methusalems is 42 times higher than in the rest of the country. Five times higher than in Germany and still three times higher than in the German leader Berlin.

There, in Luoyi, is also where Li Shaoqian lives. Life expectancy in China is generally well below that in Central Europe and below that of its neighbors Japan and South Korea. Comprehensive medical care is still being developed in rural China. In addition, occupational accidents, smoking, environmental pollution and, increasingly in the cities, obesity and unhealthy nutrition have a negative impact on life expectancy.

Old and healthy – that’s how Li managed it

Therefore, the longevity on Hainan is all the more astonishing. Residents don’t seem to be as exposed to typical Chinese health problems. Hainan has focused on tourism instead of heavy industry. While drinking water in the north of the country is contaminated with heavy metals, it is considered clear and healthy on the island. Li only knows about the permanent smog, which not only affects the lungs but also the soul of the residents of Beijing, from television. But that alone is not enough to explain his old age.

"I have never done sports," says Li. However, the statement should be taken with a grain of salt. Li is a farmer and has worked in the fields all his life. Even today, he grows his own vegetables and feeds mainly on what his small field produces. Li has never smoked. He drank a few glasses of liquor a day until he was 80, "but then I couldn’t take it so well and stopped".

Vegetarian food and shadow boxing are good for your health

A medical study commissioned by the Communist Party gives possible reasons for the good health of Chengmai residents. They live a simple life, doctors sum up. In addition, they think uncomplicated and go to bed early. In short: the people of Chengmai do not stress themselves out. Other reasons for their longevity, the study finds, include diet. Like Li, the majority of Chengmai’s inhabitants eat hardly any meat, lots of vegetables and only small portions. The functioning cohesion of the village community could also play a special role: Anyone who visits Chengmai will see the elderly gathered in the village square at any time of day. Early in the morning they shadow box, in the evening they dance together, and all day long they drink tea and palaver in the shade of the trees. "The people here don’t focus too much on their own ailments." So it is also with marriage: "In the end, it is quite simple. She is my wife, I am her husband – we have to get along with each other." This is his recipe for success.

Real estate companies have now built a modern district next to the farming village. The business idea is: "To live where people grow old."Li has his doubts: "I think you always have to have lived like we have to grow old."The rich people in their glass and concrete palaces are certainly not as happy as he is, he is sure.

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