100 Years Young
Centenarians have the last word
by Zoe Segal-Reichlin
As advancements in technology and medical research have skyrocketed, so have life expectancy figures in the U.S. Statistics on average life expectancy rose from 49 years at the turn of the century to just over 76 years in 1996.
In the meantime, another noticeable trend has appeared. A growing number of people?the centenarians?are living to 100 years and more.
More Women Than Men
In 1990, the year of the last census, there were a total of 37,306 centenarians living in the United States?and 6,359 of them had celebrated their 105th birthday.Corroborating with other studies on aging, a larger number of women lived to 100 than men. In fact, four out of five centenarians were women. Eighty-four percent of these centenarian women were widowed, compared to 58% who were men.
The majority of centenarians attained lower levels of education than future generations, which may reflect a lower emphasis on and accessibility to higher education in the first decades of this century. A proportionally high number of centenarians ranked in low socioeconomic spheres: 25.9% of women and 21.1% of males lived below the poverty level.
Centenarians in the Next Century
Taking into consideration population trends thus far, researchers have been able to make estimated projections about future populations of centenarians. According to some, there could be as many as 850,000 centenarians by the year 2,050, creating a wider and more diverse population than ever before. As life expectancy continues to climb, more and more of us will span across centuries.