SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 15, 2013

More Americans living to 100 and beyond

By Janet Romaker
The Salem News

---- — At retirement communities across the country, dozens of residents are celebrating the century mark and beyond.

What’s going on here?

More people on the planet, more people living longer. Perhaps playing a role: medical advances. A push for staying active, mind and body. Campaigns that promote consumption of fresh, rather than processed, foods.

The centenarian trend is expected to increase dramatically as baby boomers come of age, leading some people to wonder whether 100 will be the new 50.

Not only are people living longer, many continue to work at the age of 80, 90, or even 100.

Centenarians today come from a generation that lived through the Great Depression, two World Wars, the Space Age and into the Digital Age. These are people who are helping to redefine Old Age, and possibly could help erase such stereotypes of the crotchety, porch-sitting, chair-rocking old fogy who yells at the kids, “Keep off my grass!”

A baby boomer is a person born during post-World War II, between the years 1946 and 1964. In 2011, the first of that generation reached what used to be known as retirement age. And for the next 18 years, boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day.

The sheer number of boomers can help explain the trend of more people living longer, said Melanie Ayotte, administrative support with communications and government outreach for the Ohio Department of Aging. She said the department doesn’t track the number of centenarians within the state but said that the 2010 census showed Ohio had nearly 1,900 residents who were at least 100 years old.

Matt Bucher, director of marketing at the Elizabeth Scott Community in Maumee, Ohio, said seven centenarians residing at the facility last year were the most ever at one time there.

He credits the longevity to the life and times of a hearty generation.

“I think they ate better. A lot grew up on the farm. They knew how to survive. That generation is inherently tough. I really believe they have the ability to handle adversity,” he said, noting the importance of keeping the mind and body active.

From 1980 to 2010, the number of centenarians in the United States grew 66 percent, while the total population grew 36 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As of the 2010 census, more than 53,000 Americans were 100 or older. Based on estimates, by 2050, there will be more than 600,000 centenarians in America.

Supercentenarian status — for those living to 110 — is achieved by about one in 1,000 centenarians. Estimates put the number of supercentenarians in the world at a few hundred people out of more than seven billion people. There are only about 60 individual verified cases of living supercentenarians today.

Northwest Ohio is one of the places on the planet with a supercentenarian in its population. Tiffin resident Audrey Lott, born Oct. 18, 1903, became a supercentenarian at the age of 110 recently.

Lott has a few years to go to earn accolades as the oldest person ever. Jeanne Louise Calment, who died in 1997, was a French supercentenarian who reportedly had the longest confirmed human lifespan in history, living to the age of 122 years.

Misao Okawa, born March 5, 1898, is a Japanese supercentenarian who, at the age of 115 years, is listed as the world’s oldest living person today.

Jeralean Talley of Inkster, Mich., was born May 23, 1899, and at the age of 114 years, is reportedly the oldest living American and is the second-oldest living person in the world.