Channel hop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 July, 2009, 12:00am

It's not often a television programme can claim to be life-changing but this week there's one that has the potential to be just that. Youth and longevity are the subjects of an engrossing documentary called How to Live to 101 Without Trying (BBC Knowledge; Tuesday at 8.45pm), in which we meet a host of healthy oldies, including a 92-year-old surgeon; a 103-year-old woman who cycles 10 kilometres before breakfast and lifts weights; and a nonagenarian who has just started to teach karaoke.

You may have heard that the inhabitants of the Japanese island of Okinawa have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world - well, ditto for the residents of Ovodda village in Sardinia, Italy, and those of Loma Linda, in the American state of California.

In a population of one million, Okinawa boasts 900 centenarians and what's most remarkable is they age more slowly than any other society in the world. Researchers say this is because they have high levels of a hormone that usually diminishes in humans as we grow older and they attribute those levels to their diet. The sprightly inhabitants consume a 'rainbow' of fruit and vegetables and comparatively large amounts of tofu. But what really sets them apart, according to the scientists, is what they don't consume. Hara hachi bu is a saying in Japanese that translates as 'only eat until you're 80 per cent full', the point being that stuffing yourself until you feel as though you're about to burst is not a healthy approach to food or life. A little abstinence is the key to longevity for Okinawans.

The programme makers then introduce us to the residents of Ovodda. By contrast, they gorge on generous servings of rich meat, drink lots of delicious red wine and generally have a good time. One theory to explain the high number of centenarians in the village is that they have interbred over generations and while marrying into a tight community may have increased the risk of developing genetic diseases, it has also allowed youth to establish itself in their genes.

Neither of these theories apply to those who call Loma Linda home - they attribute their high life expectancy to faith. Many of the town's residents are Seventh Day Adventists who claim it's God who keeps them young.

The programme concludes there is one thing that links these communities: the ability to cope with stress. To that end, we are told you 'need a sense of meaning, coherence, purpose - something that gets you out of bed in the mornings'.

What could be a greater motivation to propel you from under the duvet than knowing you're about to land on the moon? That was the destiny of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (the subject of My life, on page 11) 40 years ago. Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (left; TVB Pearl, tomorrow at 8.30pm) has been created to celebrate the anniversary of this historical event.

The makers of the docu-drama imagine the background story of the training programme leading up to the space mission and the impact it had on the astronauts' families. The show features interviews and footage never before seen, combines it with astonishing facts and special effects and employs dramatic interpretation to further inspire our imaginations.