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Russia: Mountain Air Leads To Long Life In North Caucasus

The birth date on Shchagidet Ivanova's passport reads May 10, 1894. (RFE/RL) June 1, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Shchagidet Ivanova gives the term "senior citizen" a whole new meaning.

She is the oldest person in Shovgenovsky Raion in Russia's Republic of Adygeya. The district, which has a population of approximately 17,100 people, boasts no fewer than nine residents who are at least 100 years old.

That amounts to double the per-capita average number of centenarians in Japan, which has the highest life expectancy in the world.

Wealth Of Experience

On May 10, Ivanova -- who was born during the reign of Tsar Aleksandr III -- celebrated her 113th birthday.

When she spoke to RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, this woman -- who experienced the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalinism, two world wars, and the breakup of the Soviet Union -- just wanted to talk about her family.

"As you can see, they are caring for me," Ivanova said. "Everything is fine. My daughter-in-law cares for me and I am very happy with this. My son's name is Askarby and my daughter's name is Saret. My daughter and her husband have one child. My son has two -- Lyuda and Rusik. In our family we have a clean and comfortable environment. I feel good and I wish everybody good health!"

Official Attention

Davlet Dolev, chief of staff for the Shovgenovsky Raion government, told RFE/RL that local authorities recently began paying special attention to its oldest citizens.

"Our raion is small but we have many people who live very long lives," Dolev said. "Presently, we have nine people who are 100 years old or older. As you know, 1999 was named the [International] Year of the Elderly. In that year, 1999, we began documenting the ages of the elderly people in our district."

At only 100, Galimet Lamzhiyeva is among the youngest of the nine centenarians (RFE/RL)

Local officials visit each of the raion's centenarians on their birthday and the district government provides social services such as medicine.

"All of these elderly people are women; they are grandmothers," Dolev said. "The youngest of them turned 100 this year. The oldest among them is 113 years old."

Officials say in addition to its centenarians, Shovgenovsky Raion has 104 residents over the age of 90 and 564 who are more than 80 years old.

Healthy Atmosphere

Observers cite various reasons for such longevity in the Caucasus region: a traditional low-stress lifestyle, large families that care for their elders, clean mountain air and water, and a natural diet without processed food.

"There is an opinion that Shovgenovsky Raion is a district where people live long lives," said Mareta Napsova, head of the district's social services administration. "Among the factors that contribute to this longevity are the social, psychological, and family atmosphere."

Such longevity is common in the Caucasus. According to pension records, the Republic of Daghestan -- which has a population of 2.5 million -- boasts 47 centenarians.

(RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service)

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

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