Women in a Surrey retirement village are living years longer than even the wealthiest who live elsewhere, new research has found.
Humans have pondered the secret to longer life for centuries and, with 11 residents over 100 years old, Whiteley Village in Walton appears to have cracked it.
It was originally created with a bequest from the founder of Whiteleys department store and provides more than 250 almshouses and has an active, community style of living. Pearl Wilkinson, 96, told the Sunday Times: “Dancing is my secret. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”
Researchers who analysed decades-worth of medical records found the convivial village’s female residents lived up to 4.9 years longer than the median for a woman in England and Wales, the paper reported, even if they were from poorer backgrounds and therefore more likely to have lower life expectancy.
Professor Les Mayhew, of Cass Business School, London, led the study alongside the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC). He told the Sunday Times: “There is an irony that an Edwardian philanthropist has in some ways done better than the welfare state in helping look after the elderly. It may have taken us 100 years to start learning some of the lessons.”
Whiteley chief executive Chanra McGowan said residents were told when they arrived to take as much control as they could over their lives and to get involved socially.
A woman who arrived at Whiteley in 1960 aged 67 could expect to live a further 19.2 years, the researchers found, 4.9 longer than average. The figure dropped to 3.3 years over the average for the 1980 cohort because of better conditions for pensioners.
Care at Whiteley is part-subsidised.
Previewing the study’s launch event on Wednesday, the ILC said: “The UK population over age 65 is projected to increase by more than 40 per cent during the next 17 years to over 16 million, while the number of people in the UK over age 85 is expected to double during the next 23 years to more than 3.4 million.
“With the population ageing so rapidly, finding ways in which the older population can live their later lives in relative health and comfort has become an increasingly important issue in the UK.”