A woman who quit her job to live in Ikaria, Greece – which boasts one of the longest average lifespans in the world – revealed the ‘biggest change’ she had noticed since her move.
Anna Katsas bid farewell to West Hollywood, California, in 2022, bound for the Greek island, where she has family ties in the form of her 90-year-old grandmother, who was born there.
‘The biggest change I noticed after living in the blue zone Ikaria, by far, is how social, kind and caring the people are,’ Anna began, adding: ‘And I’ll give a few examples of this.’
‘So, let me start by saying Ikaria is a very safe place. And I would often go for walks along in… the village and I’d feel safe enough to say hello to everyone who passed by. And they’d say hello back.
Anna Katsas left West Hollywood, California, for Ikaria, Greece, in 2022
‘The biggest change I noticed after living in the blue zone Ikaria, by far, is how social, kind and caring the people are,’ Anna said
Ikaria is known for being a ‘blue zone’ – a place where the average life expectancy is statistically higher than the rest of the world’s. Pictured is Anna’s grandmother
Anna said that her 90-year-old grandmother (pictured) would have neighbors pop by to ‘check in on her’ multiple times per day – demonstrating the emphasis on community on the island
The world’s longevity meccas: What are ‘blue zones’
‘Blue zones’ are areas of the world with lower rates of chronic disease and generally healthier residents, which coincide with longer life expectancies and a higher number of people living to 100.
There are five ‘blue zones’ spread across the world: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California.
Those who live in the blue zone areas were found to share nine specific lifestyle habits: natural movement, or building exercise and activity into everyday life; feeling like they have a purpose; downshifting, or finding ways to decrease stress, such as praying, napping or enjoying happy hour; the 80 percent rule that sees people stop eating when they feel 80 percent hungry to avoid weight gain; eating a plant-based diet; moderate and regular alcohol intake; having a sense of faith; focusing on family and relationships; and having a strong social circle that values healthy living.
‘And more often than not, we’d strike up a conversation. They’d ask, “Who are you?” “How long are you staying?” “You look like your dad!” “Are you from this family?” “We’re cousins!”
‘And, this would just happen. And we’d become friends after that!’
‘One time, I said hello to a woman. And she ended up being my cousin! And she invited me into her house to have coffee and cookies that she had just freshly baked. And they were so good. And we had a deep conversation about life – about how you should follow your dreams and pursue what makes you happy.
‘And, all of this happened because I said “Hello.”‘
As a second ‘example,’ Anna offered up her first-person observations of the community’s consistency in showing up to check in on her grandmother.
‘When I was living with yia yia – my grandmother – in her house, multiple times a day, people would come in to check in on her. Sometimes they’d bring extra harvest from their garden, like vegetables and fruits, and just give it to her,’ Anna explained.
‘Some people would check in for 10 minutes, ’cause they were on their way and they had to be somewhere. And some would stay for hours, because they had known her their whole lives.
‘And this was just a natural occurrence. It was so refreshing to see how much people truly care about other people in Ikaria.’
She adds she believes ‘people are so genuine because of [Ikaria’s] history.’
In another video, Anna elaborated that human civilization on Ikaria dates to the 7th century BC, where inhabitants thrived while cultivating honey, wine and olives.
Anna said that she coincidentally met and befriended one of her cousins just by saying ‘Hello’ to a stranger she passed by on a walk
Ikaria, which is in the Aegean Sea, was first inhabited by people in the 7th century BC
Unfortunately, the agricultural production on the island, along with geographical vulnerability, made it a prime target for pirates.
The residents ultimately decided to ‘stay, destroy their own ports and hide,’ Anna said, adding that they retreated from the coast to the mountains, and ‘essentially disappeared from society for hundreds of years, becoming self-sufficient.’
In a follow-up post, Anna said that, while living out of houses built into boulders on the mountains for camouflage, the people of Ikaria ‘relied on themselves and their neighbors for survival’ – implying that this lifestyle set the cultural foundation for a community built on unwavering mutual support of its members even millennia later.
Elsewhere, Netflix’s Live To 100: Secrets Of The Blue Zones also delved into the reasons behind the longevity of Ikaria’s residents.
‘Here’s a population living about seven years longer than Americans with about half the rate of cardiovascular disease,’ host Dan Buettner narrated.
He noted he found it ‘interesting’ he couldn’t find any cases of dementia among the many residents in their 60s, 70s and all the way up to the 100s.
Besides nutritional benefits from staples including herbal tea, raw honey and wine, among the main ‘secrets’ Dan discovered were an unyielding emphasis on interpersonal and romantic relationships as well as ‘dancing and laughing.’