Humans like to live for 100 years but many hate the phase of aging. Successful and healthy aging not only includes physical health but also mental and social health. Recent research says that chimpanzees age more like a fine wine than humans do.
Chimpanzees are genetically closest to human beings and they share 99% of human DNA. Human brains are three times bigger than chimpanzees. There are many similarities between humans and chimpanzees- Humans and chimpanzees have the same number of toes and fingers, chimpanzees share their emotions just like humans, they hug, pat, fear, and fight. It is said that chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than gorillas.
Scientists have been observing chimpanzees in Kibale National Park since 1987 to advance the understanding of primate behavior and how that relates to humans. Meanwhile, chimps were considered old once they reached the age of 35. Four facilities conducted many experiments with hundreds of chimpanzees for years and the experiments were designed to help us prevent or cure human diseases. The captive animals started to develop familiar illnesses associated with aging in humans. The diseases include heart conditions and diabetes as that of humans. Researchers were amused to see how our closest living relatives are similar to us.
In 2015, the National Institute of Health (NIH) decided to stop research on chimpanzees and moved the animals to sanctuaries in the United States. During that time a report found out that dozens of chimpanzees who are younger than 60 were too weak to move. But chimpanzees whose research was done in the wild and sanctuaries show better and healthy aging compared to the chimps in the labs. This clearly says about the risk of an idle and sedentary lifestyle.
Emily Otali, field director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project recalls Auntie Rose, the wildest chimpanzee ever known to mankind. Auntie Rose during her 63 years lost all her body hair and she did not even walk; so just crawled in the forest. Until her death, she didn’t expect any help from others. Auntie Rose even walked many miles to find food and she did not receive any health care when ill or injured but she aged more healthily. This is a clear example of how being active can impact our lives healthily.
Melissa Emery Thompson, co-director of the Kibale Chimpanzee project, says studies in people with hunter-gatherer lifestyles remain very active throughout their lives and they also stay healthy much longer than those of us who take aging lightly as we grow. Former head veterinarian and present director of the Ngamba island sanctuary says it’s not that chimpanzees never show signs of aging. Chimpanzees often have dental problems that make it difficult to digest fibrous foods. This affects their immune system and they become vulnerable to diseases. And for old chimpanzees, inflammation of the joints is common, but most diseases can be treated.
Humans should learn from chimpanzees for happy and healthy aging.