Here’s an exclusive club you might like to join: The Centenarians – or people who reach the age of 100. There are about 80,000 centenarians living in the U.S. today. But here’s an even more exclusive group: Supercentenarians, or people who are 110+ years. There are about 60-70 supercentenarians living in the U.S. today. Wikipedia keeps track of many of these oldest living humans. Susannah Mushatt Jones of Brooklyn, NY takes top honors at 116 years old. Of course, there could be others that we don’t know about.

And if you are wondering what these folks look like, German photographer Karsten Thormaehlen has a beautiful Happy at 100 portrait project – we’ve used a collage of his photos in this post.

Boston University School of Medicine studies New England Centenarians and tells us that:

In the U.S. and other industrialized nations, centenarians occur at a prevalence rate of about 1 per 6,000. When the centenarian study began in 1994, the prevalence rate was one per 10,000, making centenarians one of, if not the fastest growing segments of the population. In 2010, there are about 80,000 centenarians in the U.S.
Supercentenarians, people who are 110+ years old occur at a rate of about 1 per 7 million. In 2010, there are about 60 to 70 supercentenarians in the US. In June, 2010, the New England Centenarian Study enrolled its 107th supercentenarian, thus constituting by far and away the largest sample of such subjects in the world.

While genetics plays a role in longevity, there are some controllable characteristics that they note that we could all strive to emulate:

  • Few centenarians are obese
  • Substantial smoking history is rare
  • A preliminary study suggests that centenarians are better able to handle stress than the majority of people

At their site, you can try the Center’s Living to 100 Calculator to see how you fare.

This week, NPR features a great story about Secrets Of The Very Old And Healthy — Start When You’re Young. They talk about two other aging studies that also count weight control and maintaining an active life as longevity factors, along with another component:

Other studies, including the landmark Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging, have found that participants’ attitude about the inevitable losses of aging matters, too.

“Some of them thought that aging sucks — your friends die, you get disease, you can’t do whatever you want, you can’t eat and drink what you like,” Ferrucci says. “But others thought aging was not so bad.” And people who had a positive view of aging at age 40 had significantly less cardiovascular disease later on.

So while you can’t do much about your parents and forebears, you can stay active, watch the weight, master your stress and nurture a positive attitude to life.




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