CNN: Azerbaijan’s secret to long life? Mountain air!

(CNN) — There are a number of destinations around the world famed for the longevity of their residents.
In Japan, Okinawa’s sprightly centenarians have earned it the nickname “Land of the Immortals.” Campodimele, Italy’s “Village of Eternity,” is testament to the Mediterranean diet. In the sunny Californian town of Loma Linda, a community of Seventh-Day Adventists reaping rewards of clean living.
There’s one long-lived corner of the globe you won’t have heard talked about as much, and it’s home to the world’s only Museum of Longevity. That’s Lerik in southern Azerbaijan.
The South Caucasus country is home to several regions known for producing residents who live to triple-figure ages, including Lankaran and Nagorno-Karabakh. But another, Lerik, is reputed to have the highest concentration of centenarians.
In this emerald land high above the clouds in the Talysh Mountains, reached by loop after loop of a serpentine road, people seem to have discovered a secret to a long and healthy life.

The Museum of Longevity

The two-room Museum of Longevity, built in 1991 and renovated in 2010, holds more than 2,000 exhibits documenting the lives and memories of the region’s oldest inhabitants.
It charts individual lifespans with the household items that they’ve outlived, such as three generations of clothing irons. There are chests filled with headscarves and shirts, silver pitchers and bowls, beautifully knitted socks, and hand-dyed rugs that are still brightly colored despite their age.
And then there are the letters, written in both Azerbaijani and Russian — personal artifacts so old that the ink is starting is fade.
Perhaps the most captivating features are the portraits of centenarians that cover the museum’s walls. These images, dating from the 1930s, were donated by French photographer Frederic Lachop.
The museum, and official Azerbaijan statistics, define “centenarian” more loosely than you’d expect: Here, it means anyone over 90 years old.
However, back in 1991, there were more than 200 people in Lerik registered as being more than 100 years old, out of a population of 63,000.
Numbers have been less impressive since then, which locals blame variously on radiation from communication towers and environmental decline, but could just as easily be down to more rigorous record-keeping.
Today, there are 11 people more than 100 years old, out of a local population of 83,800.