Declining physical prowess is inevitable as we age. Depression, loneliness, isolation and apathy are not. Many of us believe we are old when we have passed age 60, 50, 40 and even 30. But even when we are approaching 100 or more, we could possibly live another 10 or even 20 years. Recently deceased and some currently living centenarians are teaching us that perhaps our beliefs about aging have been incorrect.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were about 3,000 Americans over 100 years of age in 1950, about 37,306 in 1960, 73,674 in 2004, and there will be an estimated 1.1 million by 2050. Longevity appears to be more about healthy lifestyle than about genetics and DNA. Studying what has helped some people to live way beyond the normal expectations can help us all to improve the quality of our life and our own longevity. Some of the ages listed below may be slightly exaggerated due to inaccurate record keeping, but those in the United States are correct.
Deceased Super Centenarians
o Age 128 - Elizabeth "Ma Pampo" Israel of the Caribbean Island Dominica died 10/14/03. Authorities attribute her longevity to the tranquility of Dominica, the world's "centenarian capital," with more than 20 men and women over age 100 among its 70,000 inhabitants. "For much of her life, she ...worked in the sugarcane fields...and she rose every morning at 5 A.M. to pray."
o Age 122, 5 months and 14 days - Jeanne Calment of Arles, France, a wealthy woman who never had to work. She died in 8/4/97, the oldest documented person at that time. Her advice? "Always keep your smile."
o Age 119 - Sarah Knauss died in 1999, the oldest American in history.
o Age 112 - George Johnson "Sausage Man," who died recently, had lived on a high fat diet of sausage and waffles, yet he had the organs of someone in their 50's or 60's.
Currently Living Super Centenarians
There are 75 people alive - 64 women and 11 men - who are 110 or older, according to the Gerontology Research Group, an Inglewood, Calif.-based group that verifies reports of extreme ages. Scientists have found certain genetic mutations in centenarians that may help to delay aging or boost resistance to age-related disease. The general consensus is that it is a combination of genetics and environmental factors such as health habits and a positive attitude, not dwelling on stress.
o Age 120 - Mariam Amash, in applying for a new Israeli identity card in February 2008, claimed to have been born 120 years ago, which, if verified, would make her the oldest living person in the world. A relative says she drinks a glass of olive oil every day.