The people of the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia have long been famous for attaining extremely old ages. Arab and Persian chronicles from centuries ago noted the existence of these longevous peoples. The latest Soviet census reports that 70 per cent of all people reaching 110 years or more live in the Caucasus region.

An anthropologist described meeting a woman of 139 years. This does not seem old at all, however, compared to her first cousin, who reached 146 and her great-grandfather, who lived to be 160. When we consider that most people in the United States expect to live only half that long and that people in some parts of the developing world will live only one third that long, we cannot help wondering what the causes of such long life are.


Is it exercise, diet, physical environment, cultural environment, or what? Anthropologists have concluded that exercise and diet are not as important as a steady way of life with certain cultural expectations and roles. The people in most of the region of the Caucasus Mountains have a slow, regular, rhythmic life style.

There is continuity in all of the physical aspects of their life. First, most of the Caucasians live in mountain villages in a pastoral setting. They work as farmers, herders, or gardeners. Their lives are regulated by the rising of the sun, the steady rhythm of the growing cycle, the harvest, and the setting sun. Most of the longevous people have always held the same jobs. They learned their jobs young, and have continued in the same job until they are well past 100, some working until they are 120 or 130.


A good life - Bob Marley
Bob Marley – The good life

The outdoor work and the mountainous terrain provide a good deal of exercise. Anthropologists feel that while exercise contributes to longevity, the rhythmic lifestyle is more important. There is also continuity in diet. The people of the Caucasus very much enjoy their traditional food and have no inclination to change it. They have eaten  the same lean meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables from childhood to old age. Traditionally, Caucasians are lean people who do not overeat. Like exercise, anthropologists conclude that it is not the diet itself that is the secret for long life, although it does contribute.

The real secret is the continuity in diet from birth to death. The consistent, unchanged  diet and regular dietary rhythm allow the body and its digestive system to become entirely adjusted. Therefore, physiological stress on the digestive system is at a minimum. The overall evenness of pace in the Caucasian way of life makes for a feeling of well-being and encourages longevity.


The good life
Good life

Another important cause of longevity among the Caucasians is a stable cultural environment with certain expectations. First, the goals of the Caucasians do not overreach the possibilities of attainment. Unlike many Americans who want to be chairmen of the boards or presidents of the companies, goals which they can never attain, the  goals of the Caucasians tend to be realistic and attainable within their cultural milieu.

Their goals are more people-oriented. They concentrate on being hospitable and generous towards others, goals which are not only attainable, but also contribute to the overall well-being of the social group. Because the goals of the Caucasians  are realistic and attainable, emotional tensions are reduced. This contributes to long life.

Second, the normal expectation within the region is for long life. Individuals expect to live far beyond the age of 100. On the other hand, the cultural expectation of people in the United States is for a maximum life span of about 80 years. These  cultural expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Further, the Caucasians do not expect the old people to sit idly by, but to participate actively in all phases of life. A stable environment with realistic goals and expectations is a second cause for longevity among the Caucasians.

The caucasus


 Finally, longevity is also encouraged by the role of old people in the family and in the community. The Caucasians have large extended families of maybe 300 people or more. This provides a large network of people with mutual rights and obligations. The aged are respected as heads of the family. They make decisions about money, marriages,  land sales, and other matters. They are also expected to be affectionate toward their grand-children.

The old people are also respected in the community. They continue to vote, hold office and so make decisions which will affect the future of the entire community. Because of their important place in the family and in the community, the aged retain a 70 feeling of individual self-worth and importance. Retaining a positive self image reduces physical and mental problems, thus encouraging a longer life.



A. What do the following refer to?

1. ‘these longevous peoples’ (lines 3-4):
2. This* (line 50):
3. This’ (line 62):
B. Mark the best choice. 1. Line 29, ‘inclination’ has the same meaning as . a) resistance b) determination c) ambition d) wish

3. What is the role of the old in the Caucasian family?
4. Why do old Caucasians have a positive self-image?

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