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The Centenarians: Living a Century and More

Updated on June 9, 2012
A woman at 114
A woman at 114

It is hard to fathom living for a century. Think for moment. If that were to happen now, it would around 1912. The car was still rather rare and new. No fridges or dishwashers or toasters in the kitchen, let alone electric stoves. No airplanes and lots of horse and buggy still on main street in many places.

My dad, who would have been 100, had a great analogy to age. He would say, the body is like a car, the more miles you put on it, the more things start to go wrong. You can only replace and fix so many things so many times. Of course, with the human body you cannot always fix things, like my dad. They were on vacation and suddenly (this is years ago) suffered a stroke where he could function enough to mask it, but not enough to prevent my mom from driving him to the hospital-a trip he would never make, for he died in the car from a massive brain hemorrhage. He was 74 and prior to this, had been always healthy, in shape, minus aches and pains. His mother died, ironically, at the same age of the same thing, except she collapsed while in a retail store. Hmm, is that when I will also expire?

This suggests genetics, luck and diet are the prime determiners in longevity. The doctor who examined my dad simply said the "wiring" in my dad just wore out. Like the brake lines of a car. Even if he had arrived in time, nothing could have been done.

It was my dad's expiration date on his life. We all have one. As soon as you are born, you are assigned it. Some 500,000 on earth are now over 100 years old. The oldest was 122, a Jeanne Calment who lived in France in 1997. The second oldest is in the USA, a former schoolteacher at 116, if she makes August 26, I hope Besse Cooper does. While the number of 100+ is growing by 7% a year, those making past 115 years have not increased. In fact, there are not more than 10 people reaching that age in the world.

Scientists now believe that decay of the body by aging is not programmed by genes but that repair mechanisms that delay decay are. So, they believe that there is no limit to those who reach 90 or 100, but after that, the decline is rapid and getting to 120 is luck and getting to 150 years would be a miracle.

Still, what is the point of getting to the century mark if you are not somewhat active and happy? A person who is there but tied to machines, or beds, or care homes, being kept alive (in a sense) probably is secretly whispering to themselves, " I wanna go". It was hard for me to imagine myself at 40 years, when I was 17. I couldn't even grasp it. The same applies to most of us when we think of reaching 90 or 100 yrs.

One can only do so much to prolong life. You cannot control your genetic makeup and history. You just have to accept the hand you are dealt with.


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    • perrya profile image

      perrya 5 years ago

      Yes, attitude probably does.

    • profile image 5 years ago from upstate, NY

      I actually believe that an individuals thoughts and words can effect thier health. No doubt exercise, genetics and diet play a role in longevity but I wonder if good or bad generational thought patterns have a greater role in overall health. I heard of a study that showed that an individuals perception of thier health played a major role in determining future health.