In the Detling and Thurnham district, near Maidstone, women have an average life expectancy of 95, 12 years more than the national average of 83.
The village has the longest life expectancy in England and banned smoking indoors for five years before the national ban came into effect in 2007.
On the slope of the North Downs, along the historic Pilgrim’s Way, is the village of Detling, with a population of 800 people.
Ivy Watson celebrates her 100th birthday at her nursing home, Barty House Nursing Home in Kent
Among its 800 residents are some of the oldest people in the country, including Irene Nobbs who turned 102 in April.
According to the Office for National Statistics, there are 15,000 centenarians in the UK, and two of them live in the Barty House Nursing Home in Detling.
Irene, who is a retired hairdresser, told the times that a good, busy life is the secret to her longevity, plus ‘a glass of rosé every night before bedtime’.
The GP practice in Detling has eight doctors, or one doctor per 100 inhabitants, and accepts personal appointments at a time when personal consultations are hard to come by
There are many theories about why life expectancy is so high in Detling, from the quality of the tap water to the hilly terrain.
One resident, Margaret Cooke, 89, thinks the covered reservoir near the village may be a contributing factor.
It’s only a few hundred yards away and “it’s filtered through all the chalk,” she told the Times.
The village is not only beneficial for Detling’s proximity to fresh water.
The local GP practice has eight doctors, or one doctor for every 100 inhabitants, and accepts face-to-face appointments at a time when face-to-face consultations are hard to come by.
Health has always been at the forefront of the villages’ agenda. Detling banned smoking indoors in pubs and workplaces five years before the national ban was enforced.
Detling (pictured) in Kent has the longest life expectancy in England, banning indoor smoking for five years before the national ban came into effect in 2007
To better understand why life expectancy in Detling is so high, it’s worth looking at areas with low life expectancy.
Bloomfield in Blackpool, for example, has an average life expectancy of 73 for women and only 67 for men.
It means that people from Detling can live two decades longer than those who live in Bloomfield.
The seaside town has long been at the bottom of most life expectancy lists, with many pointing to Blackpool’s economic troubles as a possible cause.
a 2013 Guardian profile showed that more than half of Bloomfield’s population smokes, including one in three pregnant women.
The Joint Assessment of Strategic Needs Blackpool (JSNA) found that 20% of female deaths were caused by respiratory disease in the most deprived areas of Blackpool between 2015-17.
According to Veena Raleigh, a senior fellow at the King’s Fund health care think tank, Detling, while not particularly affluent, has a low degree of deprivation.
She told the Times, “Very often, people living in deprived neighborhoods have a cluster of adverse risk factors that weigh on their health, such as obesity, smoking and poverty.”
However, the solution is not to pack your bags and move to Detling in search of a longer life.
Raleigh says, “It doesn’t work like that. It has more to do with the people themselves and their history and customs.’
Detling has a very strong community spirit that really came to the fore during the pandemic, the council organized visits for residents struggling with their mental health and neighbors enjoyed the competition of daily exercise routines.
With the worst pandemic hopefully behind us, the people of Detling, young and old, have been able to enjoy the many amenities the village has to offer.
As for Irene, she has her sights set on her 103rd birthday, where she hopes everyone will join in and sing along to the tunes of the late great Vera Lynn.