Resilience and Optimism in exceptionally long-lived Rural Italians

Paola Antonini MD, Senior Scientific Advisor, GREAT Network Italy

A recent published study (Scelzo, A., Di Somma, S., Antonini, P., Montross, L.P., Schork, N., Brenner, D. and Jeste, D.V., 2018. Mixed-methods quantitative–qualitative study of 29 nonagenarians and centenarians in rural Southern Italy: focus on positive psychological traits. International psychogeriatrics, 30(1), pp.31-38.) provides a comprehensive understanding of the positive traits among nonagenarians and centenarians (N&Cs) from the Cilento region of Italy, the center of the “Birthplace of the Mediterranean Diet” (Keys and Keys, 1959). Study participants included 29 individuals (19 women and 10 men) aged 90 to 101 years. Standardized published measures, which were brief, easy to administer, and not distressing to the participants were used in the study. Overall, the N&Cs showed a strong sense of self-efficacy and a belief in continuing to persevere regardless of setbacks. At the same time, there was a strong bond with their family, religion, and land among these villagers. Resilience was closely connected to N&Cs’ personal identity, together with strong need for control, described by the family in terms such as “domineering,” along with a love for the land in this rural region. The Cilento N&Cs were still quite active and wanted to be in charge of their social life. The results of the study support the findings of positivity (resilience and optimism), hard work, and strong bond with family and God in the N&Cs, suggesting the importance of being resilient, optimistic, and having a purpose in life, with additional characteristic of uncompromising stubbornness and domineering personality. The love of the land felt by these exceptionally old people is also a unique feature of these persons who grew up and still live in rural surroundings.

 

Author

Paola Antonini

Contributor, Heruka Lifescience & Health Innovations


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