Throughout the industrialized world, the subgroup of the elderly who are 100 years old or older is growing at a more rapid rate than any other segment of the population. Consider the following statitics:
In 1900, there was on centenarian for every 100,000 people in the U.S.
In 2000, the rate was one centenarian per 10,000 people, or a total of about 50,000 people.
By 2010, the centenarian population will quadruple, reaching 200,000.
By 2050, the centenarian population will reach 1,000,000 - more than 90 percent of whom will be female.
Many geriatric researchers have turned their attention to the over-100 group to discover the causes of extreme longevity. The New England Centenarian Study, which is currently underway at Harvard Medical School, has a number of interesting findings.
Reports of specific geographic locations where many people are said to live to the age of 150 are either complete fabrications or gross exaggerations.
The oldest documented person in recorded history was 122 years old at her death in 1997.
Family studies suggest that longevity tends to run in families. Most centenarians have large numbers of siblings.
There is a relationship between late motherhood and centenarian status.
Whatever the cause of extreme longevity, the increasing number of centenarians is likely to change developmentatlists' understanding of old age.
According to the New England Centenarian Study of Harvard Medical School, 30 percent of America's oldest old have acute minds, while 20 percent or more may have short-term memory problems but still are getting by just fine. Some studies indicate that people in their 90s and older have better overall health than those 10 or 20 years younger. And, while the number of people 65 years of age or over is growing rapidly, the number of people in that age group who are disabled or in nursing homes is increasing much more slowly. It is reported that many of these individuals have managed to avoid major illnesses like heart disease. It is reported that over their whole lifespan, these people have seldom spent much time with a doctor.
Related Learning Links
Looks at aging from the perpsective of a woman who is 102 years of age with good physical and mental health.
A site developed by Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.--a lawyer--who has devoted her career to the concerns of centenarians, longevity, and positive aging. The site includes "Centenarians This Millennium," where she interviews 12 Centenarians. These are very strong, healthy and activie people, ranging in age from 100 years and over. The site also has much information on centenarians, boo excerpts, stories, tributes, etc. Includes a Centenarian Registry where you can include the names of people you know 99 years of age or older. A great site!
View the videos on Centenarians and the Related Learning Links. What does the information about centenarians suggest to you about social, political, and economic policies in the future?