Want to live past 100? Retire in a small city
FORGET about the notion that living close to the wild and far from the madding crowds would help achieve longevity.
That is, if the lifestyle of South Korea's centenarians, whose number shot past 3,000 last year for the first time, is something to go by.
"(A) survey has shown that the chances of surviving up to 100 years old are highest in South Korea's small and medium-sized cities, especially those in Gyeonggi province," Chosun Weekly quoted Professor Kim Jong In of Wonkwang University as saying.
"If you turn 65 this year and hope to live past 100, move to a small city like those in Gyeonggi and find a spot close to a general hospital.
"You can have a brisk walk every day in the morning, take breakfast consisting of miso soup and garlic, chat with your children over the phone, and surf the Internet, particularly for health information.
"You can have some liquor but no smoking, and must retire to bed before 11pm."
According to South Korea's national statistics office, there were 3,159 people aged 100 and above as of November last year, up by about 72 per cent from 2010.
Two-thirds live in urban areas, and the majority are women, about 86 per cent, observed the Korea Times.
Gyeonggi, which surrounds Seoul, had 692 centenarians, reported Yonhap news agency.
In Gyeonggi, Uijeongbu is South Korea's top centenarian-producing city. It has a robust but non-hectic economy, and many senior nursing and welfare facilities, noted Prof Kim.
Uijeongbu, about the size of Jurong, has a population of 430,000.
According to Prof Kim, a supportive social environment is not only the best guarantee for longevity, but also the healthy kind. "Not drinking every day from natural springs as popularly believed," he noted.
With higher life expectancy, South Koreans aged 65 and above made up 13 per cent of the population of 50.5 million last year. The proportion is forecast to exceed 20 per cent by 2026, partly due to falling birth rates.
South Korea's findings mirror what has been long observed in Japan - that a healthy diet, efficient healthcare system and social cohesion work together to raise the chances of living past 100.
There were more than 61,500 centenarians in Japan last year among its population of 127 million.
According to Prof Kim's calculation, among every 10,000 Japanese between 50 and 54 years old in the early 1960s, about 117 reached or lived past the centenarian mark in 2011.
But it was 20 for every 10,000 from the same age batch in South Korea.