What we can learn from stories of vilcabamba longevity

The people of the Vilcabamba Valley have long been famous for their longevity, which has been said to rival the rest of the world with some of the most healthy centenarians. In fact, the area has become known as the “Valley of Longevity” and has attracted visitors from all over the world to explore its scenery, history, and, of course, its people. Here’s what we know about the long lives of the Vilcabambans.

The people of the Vilcabamba Valley have been poked and prodded by scientists since the mid-1950s. Members of their community have appeared in Ripley’s Believe It or Not and have been featured in National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, and other popular press outlets. But just how long do they live? As more and more researchers tried to uncover the Vilcabambans secret to longevity, more skepticism followed.

Like in many other studied blue zones, it became apparent that Vilcabamban elders had a tendency to exaggerate their age with greater frequency as they aged. For instance, one man’s self-reported age was 70, but just five years later, he claimed to be 80. Age exaggeration in similar cultures is not uncommon.

In a place where age is addressed with great respect and few, if any, birth records are kept, age exaggeration is to be expected.

While the most recent research suggests that, despite their claims, the Vilcabambans do not necessarily live longer than the rest of the world’s human inhabitants, they do have very little documented chronic illness. The existence of very healthy 80- and 90-year-olds in the Vilcabamba suggest that we still could learn from their secrets.