Hip at 100

Today’s centenarians surf the web, watch MTV, listen to iPods and play video games, according to a U.S. survey.

The study, by health provider Evercare, surveyed one hundred persons over the age of 100 to discover the secrets of their longevity. Many of these centenarians said they made an effort to stay current and aware of the latest trends.

“To stay in tune has health benefits,” Sherri Snelling, director of Evercare, told Agence France-Presse. “These centenarians do know about current trends.”

In addition to staying on top of latest fads, centenarians reported that they led healthy lifestyles and considered faith and spirituality important. Keeping the brain healthy was also key, participants said.

“It gives us a snapshot and useful anecdotal information that will help us understand what it is that keeps Americans healthy, happy, and independent in getting older,” Snelling said.

Study participants included 70 women and 30 men. The majority – 70 percent – still live at home. 82 per cent said their dietary habits have improved or stayed the same as compared to 50 years ago. And most had avoided a substantial smoking history: only twenty three percent say they have ever smoked cigarettes, and on average, those who quit did so 41 years ago.

Many said they would prefer to have a “better memory” over “less aches and pains.”

Other findings:

• Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933 to 1945) received the most votes for the best American president.
• Jazz, gospel, and classical music were the top musical picks.
• 72 per cent have eaten at a fast food restaurant and 11 per cent have ordered coffee at Starbucks.
• 28 per cent of participants said the most beautiful day of their life was their wedding day. The birth of a child or their 100th birthday tied for second place. However, one adventurous centenarian said his best memory was when he learned to fly at age 76.

To view more findings, click here.

Fastest growing segment
The 100-plus club is not quite as exclusive as it used to be. According to the US Census Bureau, there are currently 80,000 centenarians in the US, but that number is projected to increase seven-fold to 580,000 by 2040, as the baby boomer generation ages.

And the number of centenarians in Canada is also on the rise.

According to a Portrait of Seniors in Canada, a report by Statistics Canada on the 65+ population, the number of people 85 or older has grown rapidly over the last two decades.

The 85-plus age group consisted of 196,000 individuals in 1981. By 2006, the group had reached 517,000, By 2026, it is projected to top 900,000, By 2036, it will be almost 1.5 million.

This is all part of the dramatic increase of the total 65+ population. In 2006, the 65+ population totaled 4.3 million, or 13.2% of the total population. By 2026, Statistics Canada projects it to be 8 million, or 21.2% of the population. By 2036, it will be just under 10 million, or 24.5% of the total population.

How many will be centenarians? The 2001 Canadian census reported 3,795 centenarians across the country – which works out to 0.8% of the 85+ group. If the same percentage were to hold going forward, this would mean over 7,000 centenarians in 2026 and close to 12,000 in 2036. Of course medical advances are likely to make the numbers even higher.

Predictors of reaching 100
Is longevity all about genes? While good genes can help you live a longer and healthier life, a healthy lifestyle is also important, medical experts say.

According to the Boston University School of Medicine’s New England Centenarian Study, centenarians have some characteristics in common:

• Few centenarians are obese. In the case of men, they are nearly always lean.
• A substantial smoking history is rare.
• Centenarians are better able to handle stress.
• Many (30 per cent) experience no significant changes in their thinking abilities, disproving the expectation by many that all centenarians would be demented.
• Many centenarian women gave birth after the age of 35 and even 40. A woman who naturally has a child after the age of 40 has a 4-times greater chance of living to 100 compared to women who do not. (Bearing a child in one’s forties may indicate that the woman’s reproductive system is aging slowly and that the rest of her body is as well.)
• At least 50 per cent of centenarians have first-degree relatives and/or grandparents who also achieve very old age, and many have exceptionally old siblings.
• Many of the children of centenarians (age range of 65 to 82 years) appear to be following in their parents’ footsteps with marked delays in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and overall mortality.

Living to 100
How long can you expect to live? The Life Expectancy Calculator on Livingto100.com is based on findings from various studies of centenarians and other longevity research. To use the calculator, click here. (This site has been named twice as one of USA Today‘s Hottest Sites.)

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