Monday, July 9, 2007

Living in Three Centuries

Photo by: Mark Story
Author: Mark Story


There have always been individuals who have lived into old age, but few have lived near the limits of the human lifespan. Currently, there are about 250,000 centenarians living in the world.

With so many people now living longer, a new demographic label has been created for those who have reached 110: supercentenarian. Within verifiable historical records, as of September 2005, according to the Gerontology Research Group*, fewer than 1,000 people have lived to 110, and only 17 people have reached the age of 115. The lifespan record is held by Madame Jeanne Calment of France, at 122 years 164 days.

Rather than aging more, centenarians and supercentenarians have successfully avoided debilitating diseases and injury, and aged more slowly. In general, their bodies have also postponed the chronic degenerative diseases of aging — heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's Disease, until their last few years.

The Common Characteristics of Supercentenarians
Nearly all people who live to be 100 or older have long-lived relatives. A man with a sibling who lives to 100 years of age is 17 times more likely to live to 100 himself. Children of long-lived people also tend to have marked delays in the onset of cardiovascular disease.

Most of these supercentenarians said they made no conscious effort to eat nutritiously, and many simply stated that they just ate what they grew and raised on the farm. Nearly all supercentenarians have been lean for their entire lives, some naturally and some intentionally.

While some supercentenarians did drink alcohol, and several drank hard liquor, many never drank at all. Although most never smoked, one has a long history of smoking tobacco, and another used snuff for 103 years.

Many of these supercentenarians did not see a doctor until they were in their 90s. Some for lack of money, but more often, they just weren't sick or injured enough to warrant a visit. Several, who had seen a doctor only a handful of times or never, also stated that they had never taken any medication.

Many supercentenarians, when in their early 100s, were mobile and quite active physically, mentally and socially, and able to live independently.

Perhaps the most outstanding characteristic of long-lived people is a tendency to not react to stress with excessive worry. These people tend to like living, many are deeply spiritual, and most have a well-developed sense of humor.

At her 120th birthday party,
when Jeanne Calment was asked by a young journalist,
"Will I see you at next year's birthday party?"
She instantly shot back,
"I don't see why not;
you look pretty healthy to me!"

* The ages of most of these supercentenarians have been verified by the Gerontology Research Group, an international network of gerontologists, epidemiologists and demographers.

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