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A stone block at the entrance to Perdasdefogu, a town tucked high up in the rugged mountains of south-eastern Sardinia and accessible only by a narrow, winding road, celebrates the Melis siblings with the message: “Perdasdefogu, world record for family longevity”.

Sardinia has been identified as one of five regions in the world that have high concentrations of centenarians. There are 534 people who are 100 or older, or 33.6 for every 100,000 inhabitants.

Perdasdefogu is unique in the sense that the number of centenarians in a town of its size is 13 times the national average. It is currently home to eight centenarians – four men and four women – in a population of 1,740. Ten more citizens could turn 100 within the next couple of years.

“There is of course the fresh air and the good food, but I believe one of the reasons for their longevity is their approach to stress,” said Luisa Salaris, a demographics professor at the University of Cagliari. “They were born 100 years ago and certainly didn’t have an easy life – there would have been hunger and war. But they are people who have managed to adapt – if there’s a problem, they solve it quickly.”

“Reading, walking, playing cards … the simple things are the best things.” says one resident. Another says “Everything we ate came from the garden, what you put into your stomach is so important – if you abuse the stomach, it doesn’t resist.”

Perdasdefogu hosts several cultural events throughout the year, including a literary festival. Books are believed locally to have played a part in residents’ longevity.

“Another important factor is that Perdasdefogu conserves the sense of community. The elderly still live at home and not in care homes. Sociality is so important because if you have good social contacts, you remember, talk, and evaluate … you live well.”

Source: The Guardian