The genes we are blessed with from our parents can only take us so far. To be sure, our DNA plays an important role in successful aging. But scientists who looked at key factors associated with people more likely to live to between 75 and 100 years old saw something in their data beyond genetics.
Where you live appears to play a critical role in whether you survive to be a centenarian.
Researchers at Washington State University examined state mortality data to determine that residents who lived in highly walkable, mixed-aged communities were more likely to live to their 100th birthday. They also found the areas that are conducive for generating centenarians tend to be clustered in urban areas and smaller towns with higher socioeconomic status.
This isn’t to discount good genes as a factor in longevity. The study’s authors note that earlier work has shown that our genetics account for about 20 to 35% of the pie when looking at why people live long lives. But this new research shows that social and environmental factors play a significant role, too.
This study was based on data from 145,000 Washington residents who lived to age 75 or older between 2011 and 2015.
Researchers said their findings support the urban planning push to make neighborhoods more walkable. Measures that include nice green spaces where seniors can walk makes exercise more accessible and enjoyable to them. Scientists say it also makes access to medical care and grocery stores easier, which can also play a role in successful aging.
In the end, old age has much in common with real estate. It’s all about location, location, location.