Italy has Europe’s oldest population: Eurostat

Italy is the European country with the highest percentage of the population aged 80 or over, the latest report from Eurostat shows.

Italy has Europe's oldest population: Eurostat
Italy is home to the highest proportion of over-80-year-olds in the EU. File photo: Pexels

The report, released for the 'International Day of Older Persons' on October 1st, revealed that 6.5 percent of Italians had already celebrated their 80th birthday when the data was collected in 2015.

Greece (6.3 percent) and Spain (5.9 percent) had the next highest proportion of people aged over 80, while Ireland and Slovakia had the lowest proportion at just 3.1 percent each.

In 2005, Italy came second in the rankings, with a score of 4.9 percent that left them trailing behind Sweden (5.4 percent). However, in the intervening ten years the figure in the Scandinavian nation has dropped to 5.1 percent, making it the only EU state to experience a decline in the proportion of over-80-year-olds.

READ MORE: Cheese, wine and family: The Italian way to live beyond 100

Once you've reached 80, in Italy you can expect to live for another decade, slightly above the European average of nine years, six months. But France is the country where 80-year-olds have the longest life expectancy, at 11 years.

It's bad news for men, though, as women make up just under two thirds of the over-80's in Italy, a figure in line with the Europe-wide average.

Across the EU, there are almost 27 million over-80's, an increase of seven million compared to 2005.

The longevity of Italians has intrigued scientists for many years, and studies are regularly carried out to try to discover the Mediterranean secret. The number of centenarians in the country has more than tripled over the last 15 years – but why?

The world's oldest woman, Emma Morano, has said her secret is staying single and eating eggs every day.

Italian and US experts have investigated the extraordinary longevity of residents of Acciaroli, where more than one in 10 – 81 at the mayor's last count – of the village's population of 700 is over 100 years old. They narrowed down a few criteria thought to contribute to the villagers' long lives, including rosemary and olive oil.



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Italian nonna, 93, heads to Kenya to volunteer in orphanage

Meet Irma. Irma is going to Kenya to do voluntary work in an orphanage. Irma is 93.

Italian nonna, 93, heads to Kenya to volunteer in orphanage
Nonna Irma at the airport. Photo: Elisa Coltro/Facebook

Nonna Irma has become something of a celebrity in her native Italy after her proud granddaughter shared her story on Facebook this week.

“This is my grandma Irma, a young lady of 93, who set off for Kenya tonight,” wrote Elisa Coltro on Monday. 

“Not to some tourist resort to be waited on hand and foot, but to go to a village of children, in an orphanage. I'm showing her to you because I believe that all of us should always keep a dash of recklessness in order to live and not just survive. 

“Look at her… Who's stopping her? I love her.” 

Nonna Irma, of Noventana Vicentina in Veneto, is travelling with her daughter, Elisa's mother. 

“My mother sent me the photos from the airport and seeing my grandma, red suitcase and cane in hand, I felt so proud that I wrote the post,” Coltro told La Repubblica

It was Irma's idea to go to Kenya, Coltro said: having long made donations to an orphanage founded by an Italian missionary from her area, this year she decided that “donations weren't enough, she wanted to make herself useful and and said to my mother: 'Let's go to Kenya. Or rather, I'm going and if you want you're welcome to come too.'”

Mother and daughter are supposed to stay in Kenya for three weeks – “or perhaps my grandma will decide to stay and won't come back,” joked Coltro. “It's entirely possible, knowing her big heart and her energy.”

Irma, who lost her husband at 26 and later one of her three children, has spent her life helping people close to her, according to her granddaughter, who has done voluntary work herself in refugee camps in Greece. 

“My grandma has always loved life and has never let anything stop her,” Coltro said. “She has always been an example for me.”

Now, hopefully, as thousands of people share Irma's picture, she'll prove an example to many more.