Posts Tagged ‘centenarians’

The future: Hundreds of 100th birthdays for seniors in Joliet?

Centenarians in Shorewood, Joliet, Plainfield, Channahon, Crest Hill, Minooka, Naperville, Morris, Aurora, LockportIn 2005, the Social Security Administration redesigned its life expectancy tables to extend to age 119. That says something, doesn’t it?

The New England Centenarian Study (NECS) is the largest comprehensive study of centenarians in the world. Initially this study was a collaboration between Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Now it is under the auspices of Boston University Medical Center.

The study found that Centenarians are the fastest growing segment of our population. The second fastest is the age group 85+. Currently, there are about 40,000 centenarians in the United States; 85% of them are women, 15% are men.

More and more people are now able to achieve their individual life expectancy potentials. This is a dramatic change from the turn of the 20th century, when many people died prematurely especially in infancy. The average life expectancy was 46 years. Families on average would lose a quarter of their children to infectious diseases.

With the advent of clean water and other public health measures, much of this high childhood mortality disappeared resulting in an average life expectancy of 64 years by 1960. Then with marked improvements in medical prevention and intervention for diseases that befall adults, such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, heart failure and coronary artery disease, life expectancy has climbed to almost 78 years.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century are:

  1. Immunizations and vaccines
  2. Motor vehicle safety
  3. Workplace safety
  4. Control of infectious diseases
  5. Heart and stroke mortality reduction
  6. Safer, healthier foods
  7. Protection of mothers and babies
  8. Family planning
  9. Fluoridation of drinking water
  10. Recognition of tobacco as a health hazard

Life span is the maximum age obtainable for the species, and it is defined by the age of the oldest living individual. In the case of humans, that individual was Madame Jeanne Calment of Arles, France, who was born Feb. 21, 1875 and died on Aug. 4, 1997 at the age of 122.

Madame Calment once said: “I have an enormous will to live and a good appetite, especially for sweets.” (Oh, if only it were that easy…just a daily stop at Fannie Mae)

The New England Centenarian Study found that most centenarians are uncommonly healthy, have emotional resilience, a good sense of humor, self-sufficiency, good longevity genes, resistance to stress (good coping skills), strong connections with other people, low blood pressure, religious beliefs, a zest for life, and an appreciation of simple pleasures and experiences. In addition few are obese, and a substantial smoking history is rare.

“The average person is born with strong enough longevity genes to live to 85 and maybe longer,” said Thomas T. Perls MD, MPH, director of the New England Centenarian Study. “People who take appropriate preventive steps may add as many as ten quality years to that.”

We have great potential to extend our lives, researchers say, if we just take care of ourselves: reduce stress, stay connected with others, cultivate optimism, watch the diet, exercise, increase cognitive capacity by doing crossword puzzles, playing bridge, or experiencing the new and unfamiliar and floss teeth. (That’s right. Flossing may help prevent heart disease. There is preliminary evidence that inflamed gums release substances into the bloodstream that cause clogged arteries.)

On a final note, life expectancy changes as one gets older. By the time a child reaches their first year, their chances of living longer increase. By the time of late adulthood, ones chances of survival to a very old age are quite good. For example, although the life expectancy from birth for all people in the United States is 77.7 years, those who live to age 65 will have an average of almost 18 additional years left to live, making their life expectancy almost 83 years.

And here’s the final proof. Hallmark Cards sold 85,000 100th birthday cards last year.

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