Socialising, in other words maintaining contact with friends and other people, is essential for a healthy old age, according to Dr José Antonio López Trigo, the president of the Spanish Geriatrics and Gerontology Society. "Elderly people should be as socially active and participative as they can, because that will be very beneficial for them," he says.
As well as socialising, experts have other guidelines to help people to age well. Studies have shown that the five places in the world with the highest number of centenarian residents in relation to their population share eight key factors which favour longevity. These places are Loma Linda (California), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Okinawa (Japan), Cerdeña (Italy) and Icaria (Greece), explains Dr López Trigo.
The first key is to introduce physical exercise into daily life. However, there is no need to get kitted out in sportswear: it is beneficial just to walk to where you want to go, instead of driving.
Choose your friends
The second factor is choosing good friends with whom to grow older. "We call this the feeling of belonging to a tribe," says Dr López Trigo.
Have a plan for every day
Point number three refers tothe importance of getting up every morning with a plan in mind. It could be visiting the grandchildren, playing cards or dominos with friends, visiting a museum or going to the cinema or theatre, for example.
The fourth factor is maintaining religious beliefs, no matter what type they may be. The choice of religion isn't as important as the feeling of having a spiritual belief.
The fifth key to longevity is to introduce pulses into the diet. It has been shown that the Mediterranean diet keeps the body healthy.
Fruit and vegetables
Still on the subject of food, in sixth place is including plenty of fruit and vegetables in the diet, especially when they are in season.
The seventh factor shared by the centenarians is that they have support from their families. Contact with relatives is a way of combatting loneliness.
In eighth place is a positive attitude to life. "Positive people live on average five years longer and in better conditions. You need to know how to give a relative value to things," says Dr López Trigo.