This week on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl visits a retirement community in Southern California, where people over the age of 90 are participating in a groundbreaking study on the secrets of living a long life. As Stahl reports, some of the results are striking: A couple drinks of alcohol per day reduced the risk of death rather than increased it.
But such a finding is not shocking to anyone who remembers Morley Safer's 1975 report on the old folks of Abkhazia (posted in full in the video player above).
In the lush valleys of Abkhazia, located on the border of southern Russia, Safer found that living to 100 or older is not uncommon-- and drinking alcohol may have played a role in the villagers' longevity. Local doctors told Safer that the quantity of wine and alcohol they consumed may have shielded them from disease.
And the Abkhazians Safer met certainly knew how to drink. While attending the 135th birthday of Kfaf Lasuria, the oldest person in the Soviet Union at the time, Safer watched the birthday girl smoke cigarettes, and chug a large glass of alcohol to shouts of encouragement from partygoers.
Beyond their love of spirits, the elderly Abkhazians had other habits that may have contributed to the strange, yet miraculous trend of longevity in the region. For example, many of the supercentenarians were accustomed to the daily physical labor of gardening and keeping livestock. They also made an effort to lead stress-free lives. Most notably, a doctor told Safer that it was rare for Abkhazians to utter harsh words, and their families enjoyed close relationships.
Such a scene made Safer consider some life lessons on the best way to "keep young:"
Food from the earth, not from a can.
Hard physical labor, not the so-called leisure years.
And above all, an unbreakable belief in family life that makes age more important than youth or wealth -- and old age the most important time of life.