Four students from the School of Health travelled together with researcher Lowie van Doninck to Sardinia. People there live around seven years longer than the average Dutch citizen. The students wanted to know why that is.
The fourth-year Nursing students, Meike Grol, Marlies Poiesz and Lieke Lavrijzen, are taking part in the TOP (Talent Development Programme): a two-year programme for students who want to broaden their studies. ‘We are currently developing an app about “blue zones”: places in the world where people live longer on average. We took the view that we couldn’t do this project without actually visiting a blue zone ourselves’, explains Meike. Sardinia is one of these blue zones. Nicoya (Costa Rica), Okiniwa (Japan), Loma Linda (United States) and Ikaria (Greece) are other blue zones.
Oldest family in the world
In Sardinia they visited the oldest family in the world: six sisters and three brothers with a combined age of 820 years. The oldest member of this family is 106. ‘She asked if we would place a personal ad, she is looking for a blonde Dutch man aged around 26’, says Meike in an interview with BN DeStem. ‘The elderly lady believes that the very different culture in Sardinia is mainly due to faith. People pray every day there, and thank God for another beautiful day.’
The islanders have a relaxed attitude to life that means they are much less likely to suffer from cardiovascular diseases. ‘It is very different, this pleasant atmosphere. Everyone wants to do something for you. If you ask for directions, they walk with you to the place you are looking for. No-one worries about the fact that they themselves will get to work quarter of an hour later as a result’, says Meike. People in Sardinia have no stress. The students encountered evidence of this when they wanted to interview a GP. ‘Two patients were sitting in the waiting room, and yet the doctor still took time for us. The patients didn’t have a problem with this. They were happy to sit and talk to each other.’
Respect for elders
According to the researcher Van Doninck, there is a significant difference in culture between the Dutch and the islanders. ‘In the Netherlands, the elderly are viewed as people with impairments. In Italy they often live with their families. There is respect for them, as wise people.’
Is the Sardinian blue zone an example for the Netherlands? ‘You have healthcare here, but a better name for it would be sick care. In the Netherlands we combat illnesses instead of preventing them. But a healthy lifestyle needs to start early and be given more attention during education.’
The students will share their experiences in an app, which will be presented in late January.