A CENTENARIAN is a person who lives to or beyond the age of 100
years. Because life expectancies worldwide are less than 100, the term
is associated with longevity . In 2012, the
United Nations estimated
that there were 316,600 living centenarians worldwide. As life
expectancy is increasing across the world, and the world population
has also increased rapidly, the number of centenarians is expected to
increase quickly in the future. According to the UK ONS , one-third
of babies born in 2013 in the UK are expected to live to 100.
* 2 Current incidence
* 2.1 Gender skew
Centenarian populations by country
* 3 State recognition
* 4 Traditions and rituals
* 5 Centenarians in ancient times
* 6 Research
* 6.1 Research in Italy
* 6.2 DNA repair
* 7 Japanese bio-study
Centenarian controversy in
* 8 Epigenetic studies
* 9 Media references
* 10 See also
* 11 References
* 12 Further reading
* 13 External links
A supercentenarian is a person who has lived to the age of 110 or
more, something only achieved by about one in 1,000 centenarians. Even
rarer is a person who has lived to age 115 – there are only 43
people in recorded history who have indisputably reached this age, of
Violet Brown ,
Nabi Tajima , Chiyo Miyako, Ana María Vela
Rubio and Giuseppina Projetto are still living. There has only been
one known case of a person of 120 years of age or older, Jeanne
Calment , who lived to the age of 122 years, 164 days.
United States currently has the greatest number of known
centenarians of any nation with 53,364 according to the 2010 Census ,
or 17.3 per 100,000 people. In 2010, 82.8% of US centenarians were
Japan has the second-largest number of centenarians, with an
estimated 51,376 as of September 2012, and the highest proportion of
centenarians at 34.85 per 100,000 people.
Japan started recording its
centenarians in 1963. The number of Japanese centenarians in that year
was 153, but surpassed the 10,000 mark in 1998; 20,000 in 2003; and
40,000 in 2009. According to a 1998
United Nations demographic survey,
Japan is expected to have 272,000 centenarians by 2050; other sources
suggest that the number could be closer to 1 million. The incidence
of centenarians in
Japan was one per 3,522 people in 2008.
In Japan, the number of centenarians is highly skewed towards
Japan in fiscal year 2016 had 57,525 female centenarians,
while males were 8,167, a ratio of 7:1. The increase of centenarians
was even more skewed at 11:6:1.
CENTENARIAN POPULATIONS BY COUNTRY
The total number of living centenarians in the world remains
uncertain. It was estimated by the Population Division of the United
Nations as 23,000 in 1950, 110,000 in 1990, 150,000 in 1995, 209,000
in 2000, 324,000 in 2005 and 455,000 in 2009. However, these older
estimates did not take into account the contemporary downward
adjustments of national estimates made by several countries such as
the United States; thus, in 2012, the UN estimated there to be only
316,600 centenarians worldwide. The following table gives estimated
centenarian populations by country, including both the latest and the
earliest known estimates, where available.
LATEST ESTIMATE (YEAR)
EARLIEST ESTIMATE (YEAR)
1901 50 (1901)
232 (1990), 1960 25 (1960)
2,001 (1 January 2015)
1950 23 (1950)
1990 4,469 (1990), 17,800 (2007)
2006 404 (2006)
1960 11 (1960)
21,393 (1 January 2016)
1900 100 (1900)
1990227 (1990), 76 (1949)
1960 3 (1960)
19,095 (2015), 1872 99 (1872)
54,397 (2013) 1950 111 (1950), 155 (1960)
1990 2,403 (1990)
1830 18 (1830)
1960 18 (1960)
1951 44 (1951)
1970 500 (1970)
1990 41 (1990)
1953 2 (1953)
1950 46 (1950)
1860 7 (1860)
1911 107 (1911)
53,364 (2010), 1950 2,300 (1950)
316,600 (2012), 1950 23,000 (1950)
100th birthday card from U.S. President
Gerald Ford and First
In many countries, people receive a gift or congratulations from
state institutions on their 100th birthday.
In the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms , the British
(and Commonwealth) monarch sends greetings (formerly as a telegram )
on the 100th birthday and on every birthday beginning with the 105th.
The tradition of Royal congratulations dates from 1908, when the
Secretary for King
Edward VII sent a congratulatory letter to Reverend
Thomas Lord of Horncastle in a newspaper clipping, declaring, "I am
commanded by the King to congratulate you on the attainment of your
hundredth year, after a most useful life." The practice was formalised
from 1917, under the reign of King
George V , who also sent
congratulations on the attainment of a 60th
Wedding anniversary .
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II , sends a greeting card style with the notation "I
am so pleased to know that you are celebrating your one-hundredth
birthday, I send my congratulations and best wishes to you on such a
special occasion", there after each few years the card is updated with
a current picture of the Queen as to ensure people do not receive the
same card more than once. The Queen further sends her congratulations
on one's 105th birthday and every year thereafter as well as on
special wedding anniversaries, people must apply for greetings 3 weeks
before the event, on the official British Monarch's website.
In the United States, centenarians traditionally receive a letter
from the President , congratulating them for their longevity.
Centenarians born in Ireland receive a €2,540 "Centenarians'
Bounty" and a letter from the
President of Ireland
President of Ireland , even if they are
resident abroad .
Japanese centenarians receive a silver cup and a certificate from the
Prime Minister of
Japan upon the
Respect for the Aged Day following
their 100th birthday, honouring them for their longevity and
prosperity in their lives.
Swedish centenarians receive a telegram from the King and Queen of
Centenarians born in Italy receive a letter from the President of
TRADITIONS AND RITUALS
An aspect of blessing in many cultures is to offer a wish that the
recipient lives to 100 years old. Among Hindus , people who touch the
feet of elders are often blessed with "May you live a hundred years".
In Sweden, the traditional birthday song states, May he/she live for
one hundred years. In
Judaism , the term May you live to be 120 years
old is a common blessing. In Poland,
Sto lat , a wish to live a
hundred years, is a traditional form of praise and good wishes, and
the song "sto lat, sto lat" is sung on the occasion of the birthday
celebrations—arguably, it is the most popular song in Poland and
among Poles around the globe. Chinese emperors were hailed to live ten
thousand years , while empresses were hailed to live a thousand years.
In Italy, "A hundred of these days!" (cento di questi giorni) is an
augury for birthdays, to live to celebrate 100 more birthdays. Some
Italians say "Cent'anni!", which means "a hundred years", in that they
wish that they could all live happily for a hundred years. In Greece,
wishing someone Happy Birthday ends with the expression να τα
εκατοστήσεις (na ta ekatostisis), which can be loosely
translated as "may you make it one hundred birthdays".
CENTENARIANS IN ANCIENT TIMES
While the number of centenarians per capita was much lower in ancient
times than today, the data suggest that they were not unheard of.
However, ancient demographics and chronicles are biased in favor of
wealthy or powerful individuals rather than the ordinary person. A
rare glimpse of an ordinary person is the legionary veteran Julius
Valens whose tombstone states he lived 100 years - "VIXIT ANNIS C".
Grmek and Gourevitch speculate that during the Classical Greek period
, anyone who lived past the age of five years – surviving all the
common childhood illnesses of that era – had a reasonable chance of
living to a relatively old age.
Life expectancy in 400 BC was
estimated to be around 30 years. One demographer of ancient
civilizations reported that Greek men lived to 45 years on average
(based on a sample size of 91), while women lived to 36.2 years (based
on a sample size of 55). Notably, the gender statistics are inverted
compared to today – childbirth at the time had a far higher
mortality rate than in modern times, skewing female statistics
downward. It was common for average citizens to take great care in
Mediterranean diet and exercise, although there was
much more male trauma per capita than today, due to military service
being virtually universal for citizens of Ancient Greece. This also
biased the statistics for men downward.
Diogenes Laertius (c. AD 250) gives one of the earliest references
regarding the plausible centenarian longevity given by a scientist,
Hipparchus of Nicea (c. 185 – c. 120 BC), who,
according to the doxographer, assured that the philosopher Democritus
of Abdera (c. 470/460 – c. 370/360 BC) lived 109 years. All other
ancient accounts of Democritus appear to agree that the philosopher
lived at least 90 years. However, such longevity would not be
dramatically out of line with that of other ancient Greek philosophers
thought to have lived beyond the age of 90 (e.g. Xenophanes of
Colophon , c. 570/565 – c. 475/470 BC;
Pyrrho of Ellis, c. 360 - c.
Eratosthenes of Cirene c. 285 – c. 190 BC). The case of
Democritus differs from those of, for example,
Epimenides of Crete
(7th and 6th centuries BC), who is said to have lived an implausible
154, 157 or 290 years, depending on the source.
Numerous other historical figures were reputed to have lived past
100. The sixth dynasty Egyptian ruler
Pepi II is believed by some
Egyptologists to have lived to 100 or more (c. 2278 – c. 2184 BC),
as he is said to have reigned for 94 years. However this is disputed:
others say he only reigned 64 years.
Hosius of Córdoba , the man who
Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great to call the
First Council of Nicaea
First Council of Nicaea ,
reportedly lived to age 102. The Chronicon of Bernold of Constance
records the death in 1097 of Azzo marchio de Longobardia , pater
Welfonis ducis de Baiowaria , commenting that he was iam maior
centenario. Ultimately, there is no reason to believe that
centenarians did not exist in antiquity, even if they were not
Research into centenarians
RESEARCH IN ITALY
Research in Italy suggests that healthy centenarians have high levels
of both vitamin A and vitamin E and that this seems to be important in
causing their extreme longevity. Other research contradicts this,
however, and has found that this theory does not apply to centenarians
Sardinia , for whom other factors probably play a more important
role. A preliminary study carried out in Poland showed that, in
comparison with young healthy female adults, centenarians living in
Upper Silesia had significantly higher red blood cell glutathione
reductase and catalase activities, although serum levels of vitamin E
were not significantly higher. Researchers in Denmark have also found
that centenarians exhibit a high activity of glutathione reductase in
red blood cells. In this study, the centenarians having the best
cognitive and physical functional capacity tended to have the highest
activity of this enzyme .
Other research has found that people whose parents became
centenarians have an increased number of naïve B cells . It is well
known that the children of parents who have a long life are also
likely to reach a healthy age, but it is not known why, although the
inherited genes are probably important. A variation in the gene FOXO3
A is known to have a positive effect on the life expectancy of humans,
and is found much more often in people living to 100 and beyond -
moreover, this appears to be true worldwide.
Men and women who are 100 or older tend to have extroverted
personalities, according to Thomas T. Perls, the director of the New
Centenarian Study at Boston University. Centenarians will
often have many friends, strong ties to relatives and high
self-esteem. In addition, some research suggests that the offspring of
centenarians are more likely to age in better cardiovascular health
than their peers.
Lymphoblastoid cell lines established from blood samples of
centenarians have significantly higher activity of the DNA repair
protein PARP (
Poly ADP ribose polymerase
Poly ADP ribose polymerase ) than cell lines from
younger (20 to 70 years old) individuals. The lymphocytic cells of
centenarians have characteristics typical of cells from young people,
both in their capability of priming the mechanism of repair after H2O2
sublethal oxidative DNA damage and in their PARP capacity. PARP
activity measured in the permeabilized mononuclear leukocyte blood
cells of thirteen mammalian species correlated with maximum lifespan
of the species. These findings suggest that PARP mediated DNA repair
activity contributes to the longevity of centenarians, consistent with
DNA damage theory of aging
DNA damage theory of aging .
Many experts attribute Japan's high life expectancy to the typical
Japanese diet, which is particularly low in refined simple
carbohydrates, and to hygienic practices. The number of centenarians
in relation to the total population was, in September 2010, 114%
Shimane Prefecture than the national average. This ratio was
also 92% higher in
Okinawa Prefecture . In Okinawa, studies have
shown five factors that have contributed to the large number of
centenarians in that region:
* A diet that is heavy on grains, fish, and vegetables and light on
meat, eggs, and dairy products.
* Low-stress lifestyles, which are proven significantly less
stressful than that of the mainland inhabitants of Japan.
* A caring community, where older adults are not isolated and are
taken better care of.
* High levels of activity, where locals work until an older age than
the average age in other countries, and more emphasis on activities
like walking and gardening to keep active.
* Spirituality, where a sense of purpose comes from involvement in
spiritual matters and prayer eases the mind of stress and problems.
Although these factors vary from those mentioned in the previous
study, the culture of Okinawa has proven these factors to be important
in its large population of centenarians.
A historical study from Korea found that male eunuchs in the royal
court had a centenarian rate of over 3%, and that eunuchs lived on
average 14 to 19 years longer than uncastrated men.
CENTENARIAN CONTROVERSY IN JAPAN
The number of Japanese centenarians was called into question in 2010,
following a series of reports showing that hundreds of thousands of
elderly people had gone "missing" in the country. The deaths of many
centenarians had not been reported, casting doubt on the country's
reputation for having a large population of centenarians.
In July 2010,
Sogen Kato , a centenarian listed as the oldest living
Tokyo , registered to be aged 111, was found to have died some
30 years before; his body was found mummified in its bed, resulting
in a police investigation into centenarians listed over the age of
105. Soon after the discovery, the Japanese police found that at least
200 other Japanese centenarians were "missing", and began a nationwide
search in early August 2010.
By measuring the biological age of various tissues from centenarians,
researchers may be able to identify tissues that are protected from
aging effects. According to a study of 30 different body parts from
centenarians and younger controls, the cerebellum is the youngest
brain region (and probably body part) in centenarians (about 15 years
younger than expected ) according to an epigenetic biomarker of
tissue age known as epigenetic clock . These findings could explain
why the cerebellum exhibits fewer neuropathological hallmarks of age
related dementias compared to other brain regions. Further, the
offspring of semi-supercentenarians (subjects who reached an age of
105–109 years) have a lower epigenetic age than age-matched controls
(age difference=5.1 years in peripheral blood mononuclear cells) and
centenarians are younger (8.6 years) than expected based on their
Centenarians are often the subject of news stories, which often focus
on the fact that they are over 100 years old. Along with the typical
birthday celebrations, these reports provide researchers and cultural
historians with evidence as to how the rest of society views this
elderly population. Some examples:
* 107-year-old Arkansas man Monroe Isadore dies in shootout with
* 101-year-old, Japanese man Funchu Tamang rescued from the Nepal
earthquake in 2015
* In 2015, Japanese man
Hidekichi Miyazaki , a masters athlete broke
a new record as oldest sprinter winning the 100m at 105 and earns a
place in the
Guinness World Record book, his record has since been
surpassed by American
* William A."Bill" Del Monte, the last known survivor of the 1906
San Francisco earthquake , passed at a retirement faculty in Marin
County in 2016 at the age of 109.
* In 2015 Mieko Nagaoka, a 100-year-old Japanese woman, became the
first centenarian to complete a 1500m swim in a 25-meter pool;
specifically, she completed 30 laps of the pool in 1 hour, 15 minutes,
54 seconds, in a masters event in Matsuyama, Japan.
* In May 2015 Marjorie "Bo" Gilbert, from
South Wales , became the
first centenarian to appear in the magazine Vogue , when she was
featured as part of an advertisement for the department store Harvey
* On April 30, 2016,
Ida Keeling became the first woman in history
to complete a 100-meter run at the age of 100. Her time of 1:17.33 was
witnessed by a crowd of 44,469 at the 2016
Penn Relays . This time
was the best ever recorded in the 100-meter dash for any female age
100 or older.
* In 2017, Julia Hawkins (age 101) became the oldest woman ever in
the USA Track and Field Outdoors Masters Championships, and ran the
100 meters in 40.12 seconds. Previously that year she had run the 100
meters in 39.62 seconds. That is a new world record for women 100 or
Food preferences in older adults and seniors
Lists of centenarians
New England Centenarian Study
Okinawa Centenarian Study
Queensland Community Care Network , which operates the
centenarians-only 100+ club
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to CENTENARIANS .
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