Aging Gracefully in the Vilcabamba Valley

Having recently traveled to Ecuador, I spent some time in the famed Vilcabamba Valley. Located in southern Ecuador, the village of Vilcabamba thrives at the foot of the Mandango mountain.  According to a Wikipedia entry, the area has been referred to as the Playground of the Inca having thought to be a retreat for Incan royalty. The presence of Mandango, the Sleeping Inca, is said to protect the area from earthquakes and other natural disasters.

The spirit of the Sleeping Inca isn’t the only thing unique to this valley. Often called the Valley of Longevity, locals claim it’s not uncommon for inhabitants to live past 100 years of age. The claims are not without scientific fact.  Medicinal qualities have been found in the surrounding plant life. Analysis of fruits, roots and herbs in this equatorial region reveals high levels of anti-oxidants.

An article published by the National Geographic in the early 1970’s gave birth to the idea of Blue Zones.  A name given to places where people live longer, healthier lives, the notion of such zones sparked controversy. Yet, elderly people in Blue Zones around the world are more active, youthful and energetic than those in the U.S. Sorry, no Blue Zones here.

In 1981, the Ecuadorian government hired medical journalist Dr. Morton Walker to further study claims of longevity. His research found the area’s mineral rich water was a key to the Vilcabambans prolonged optimum health.

Wikipedia also notes that retinas of 100 year-old residents of the Valley of Longevity are often comparable with those of 45 year-old city dwellers. What they fail to note is the location of the city dwellers – residents of Quito, Ecuador’s capital or those living in New York City. Factor in work related eye strain and medical researchers might not see eye to eye on this study.

In a post on About.com under Longevity Myths and Longevity Legends, Mark Stibich, Ph.D. sights the Vilcabamba Valley’s extreme inaccessibility as a factor, having protected the inhabitants from many modern influences including prepackaged foods and preservatives.

As the Vilcabambans days are spent hiking up slopes to cultivate and harvest fruits and vegetables and eating fresh picked foods, whole grains, seeds and nuts, with little animal products, it’s a safe bet that exercise, a healthy diet and lack of stress have gone a long way in helping them ward off the effects of aging.

Still, the age old debate over Blue Zones continues. The local government plans to convert the Vilcabamba’s Parador Hotel into a senior citizens center in conjunction with INIGER (National Institute of Gerontology Studies) in order to continue researching the benefits of aging under the ageless presence of the Sleeping Inca.

Post Written by Pamela J. Willits

Read more @ Wikipedia and About.com

10 responses to “Aging Gracefully in the Vilcabamba Valley

  1. Right On Larry! I’m happy for you to go to such a beautiful and remote part of the world.I hope you drank gallons of mineral water while there and you continue to put out images of life for years to come.

  2. Wow, so there really is a world out there. How quickly we forget. Thanks for sharing Larry, a good reminder, with wonderful photos, not to mention a bit of piece and quiet, the way it all should be.

  3. Interesting blog……would love to go there: great images and contextual information…..

  4. beautiful. great. take me w/you next time Larry! i could use some help in learning to age gracefully and i’ll bet having vistas like those posted here to see daily, i’d be much better looking!

  5. Always enjoyable, Larry. I guess we need to go there. S

  6. These are amazing images Larry! thanks for sharing…………Marcia

  7. Amazing shots, Larry. 🙂

  8. Very Interesting. There must be more Life Force Energy, or what ever you call it, in the Blue Zones.

  9. I enjoyed looking at Vilcabamba through your eyes. Regarding the INIGER center, they have built from scratch the research center, which is located near the recreational parc in Yamburara, I was not aware that the Parador Hotel was also to be part of it, but it makes sense.
    The photo of the first great great gran’pa is particularly wonderful. He is a very gentel person, always looking at young chicks go by. He’s a widow but would like to marry again….
    Thank you for sharing pictures of my lovely new country.

  10. More, please. The images are wonderful!

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