Old Age: Centenarian

Original Editor - Lucinda hampton

Top Contributors - Lucinda hampton  

Introduction[edit | edit source]


Longevity is a complex life-history trait and varies among individuals, families and populations. Heritability estimates of longevity suggest that about a third of the phenotypic variation associated with the trait is attributable to genetic factors, and the rest is influenced by epigenetic and environmental factors[1].

People who live to be 100 (ie centenarian) or even over 100 are growing in numbers. In fact, some experts believe the person who will live to be 150 has already been born. With new advancements in medical treatments, stem cell research and 3D printing, this goal is becoming increasingly easy to achieve for all of us. But for the tens of thousands of recorded centenarians and some 60 supercentenarians (those 110 or older), these advancements were not the key to their longevity[2].

Sub-types[edit | edit source]

Researchers have come to the conclusion that there are three basic types of centenarians: survivors, delayers and escapers. Most centenarians and supercentenarians fall into the first two categories.

  1. Survivors are those who developed these diseases before the age of 80 but continued to live on in spite of them. eg dementia, cancer.
  2. Delayers developed the symptoms after the age of 80.
  3. Escapers are those who reached 100 years of age without the diagnosis of any of the common age-related diseases, and are by far the smallest group. Not smoking and being socially engaged throughout older age are associated with being a centenarian free of common chronic diseases..[3]

Epidemiology[edit | edit source]

Old lady EUNICE BOWMAN 2008.jpg

The population division of the United Nations department of economic and social affairs released global population by age group in 2015, and it said there are 451,000 centenarians worldwide. There were 355,000 women and 96,000 men, and the number of women was significantly higher than that of men. It will rise to 1.245 million by 2030 and 3.67 million by 2050.

  • Japan has 61,568 centenarians, and it is forecast to reach 272,000 by 2050.
  • Britain had 13,350 centenarians in 2012.
  • Australia is expected to have 12,001 centenarians by 2020 and 50,000 by 2050.
  • The number of centenarians in China has increased year by year[4]
  • No one region of the world appears to have an abundance of centenarians ( however this topic needs further research).[5]

Genetics[edit | edit source]

Researchers found that people who live beyond 105 years tend to have a unique genetic background that makes their bodies more efficient at repairing DNA. Several new genes linked to an exceptionally long life have been discovered, according to a new study that examined the genomes of people living into their 100s, known as centenarians.

Using a new method, the researchers found four genes linked with a very long life, these genes are:

  1. ABO, which is involved in determining blood type
  2. CDKN2B, which regulates cell division
  3. APOE, which is linked with Alzheimer's disease
  4. SH2B3, which was previously found to extend life in fruit flies.[6]

Good Practices for Life[edit | edit source]


Beyond genetic background, your environment and lifestyle can make a big difference in the way you age. eg Introducing more exercise, a balanced diet, reducing stress, and taking care of your health can all help you remain healthy while aging.

Lessons learnt from centenarian studies.

  • We should give full play to the role of preventive medicine and health management.
  • Pay attention to oral health, and love our teeth.
  • Give up smoking
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Having a healthy diet eg The diet should be rich and varied, and increase the intake of grains and fruits[7].
  • A positive attitude
  • Living an active life[2]
  • Economic conditions have limited influence on human longevity, especially for those who live longer than 90 years old[8].
  • Stick to the The ideal Cardiovascular Health (ICH) metrics. Basically these 7 equate to: Stop Smoking; Eat Better; get active; Lose weight; Manage BP; Control Cholesterol; Reduce Blood Sugar.[9] The ICH metrics of centenarians and oldest-old were at a relatively good level, and there was a strong and independent relationship between the number of ICH indicators and disability[10]

Physiotherapy Implications[edit | edit source]

Old people are making sports.jpg

Physically and cognitively functional centenarians certainly represent an impressive example of successful healthy ageing.

  • However, even in these unique individuals, with the passage of time, declining lung function and sarcopenia lead to a progressive fall in maximal strength, maximal oxygen uptake, and therefore reduced exercise capacity.
  • The subsequent mobility limitation can initiate a vicious downward spiral of reduced physical function and health.
  • Emerging literature has shed some light on this multi-factorial decline in function associated with aging and the positive role that exercise and physical capacity can play in the elderly[11].

See Physical Activity as an Anti-Aging Medicine

Realities[edit | edit source]

E and T.jpeg

In Greek mythology, mortality was the distinguishing feature between gods and men; gods were immortal but men suffered from death. In mythology, Eos, the goddess of the dawn falls in love with a mortal man called Tithonus. Eos cannot bear the thought that Tithonus will die, so asks Zeus to make him immortal, and he agrees. But... she forgot to ask for eternal youth. Tithonus cannot die, but he progressively suffers from all the ill health and frailties of old age.

Image: Tithonus and Eos in ancient Greek pottery

  • Centenarians are the living embodiment of Tithonus’ curse. Contrary to what the media would like to portray, many centenarians suffer ill health and frailty associated with old age. Most are wheelchair or bed-bound, many suffer from dementia, muscle loss, hearing loss, eyesight loss and lack control of their orifices.
  • Centenarians are not a mystery of nature; they are old people who happen to suffer the damages of ageing a bit longer than others[12].
  • The new study uncovered evidence of misunderstandings between very old adults and their primary family or social contact about specific end-of-life sentiments. eg: Just 1.5% of centenarians perceived the end of their lives as a threatening subject, while 10.6% of primary contacts believed the centenarian found the subject threatening; Nearly 1 in 4 centenarians reported longing for death, while only 10.6% of primary contacts perceived such a sentiment[13].

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Govindaraju D, Atzmon G, Barzilai N. Genetics, lifestyle and longevity: lessons from centenarians. Applied & Translational Genomics. 2015 Mar 1;4:23-32.Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26937346/ (accessed 10.9.2021)
  2. 2.0 2.1 nextavenue Inspiring centenarians Available:https://www.nextavenue.org/inspiring-centenarians-teach-health/ (accessed 10.9.2021)
  3. Barak Y, Leitch S, Glue P. The Great Escape. Centenarians’ exceptional health. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research. 2021 Mar;33:513-20.Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32488471/ (accessed 10.9.2021)
  4. Rong C, Shen SH, Xiao LW, Huang Q, Lu HT, Wang HX, Li ZX, Wang XM. A Comparative Study on the Health Status and Behavioral Lifestyle of Centenarians and Non-centenarians in Zhejiang Province, China—A Cross-Sectional Study. Frontiers in public health. 2019 Nov 22;7:344.Available: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00344/full (accessed 10.9.2021)
  5. Livescience 100 centenarian facts Available:https://www.livescience.com/6666-lives-100-centenarian-facts.html (accessed 10.9.2021)
  6. Live science Genes Centenarians Available:https://www.livescience.com/53157-genes-centenarians.html (accessed 10.9.2021)
  7. Rong C, Shen SH, Xiao LW, Huang Q, Lu HT, Wang HX, Li ZX, Wang XM. A Comparative Study on the Health Status and Behavioral Lifestyle of Centenarians and Non-centenarians in Zhejiang Province, China—A Cross-Sectional Study. Frontiers in public health. 2019 Nov 22;7:344.Available: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00344/full (accessed 10.9.2021)
  8. Wang S, Luo K, Liu Y, Zhang S, Lin X, Ni R, Tian X, Gao X. Economic level and human longevity: Spatial and temporal variations and correlation analysis of per capita GDP and longevity indicators in China. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2015 Jul 1;61(1):93-102.Available:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25847813/ (accessed 10.9.2021)
  9. Heart org. Life's simple 7 Available: https://www.heart.org/en/professional/workplace-health/lifes-simple-7(accessed 10.9.2021)
  10. Liu M, Kou F, Yang S, Wang S, He Y, Zhang W. Ideal cardiovascular health in the oldest-old and centenarians and its association with disability and health-related quality of life. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine. 2021:709.Available: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcvm.2021.603877/full (accessed 10.9.2021)
  11. Venturelli M, Schena F, Richardson RS. The role of exercise capacity in the health and longevity of centenarians. Maturitas. 2012 Oct 1;73(2):115-20. Available: https://europepmc.org/article/PMC/3618983 (accessed 10.9.2021)
  12. The Conversation The curse of centenarians epitomise our fears about growing old Available:https://theconversation.com/the-curse-of-centenarians-epitomise-our-fears-about-growing-old-24002 (accessed 10.9.2021)
  13. LTSS Misunderstanding How Centenarians View End of Life Available:https://www.ltsscenter.org/misunderstanding-how-centenarians-view-end-of-life/ (accessed 10.9.2021)