Aging Gracefully: More Centenarians, With Women Leading The Trend

Usually I don't care much about the New Year — it's just a number, right? But this year is a little different because I'm turning 50 in 2014.

It's not quite as bad as it seems: I still get carded when I buy wine at Whole Foods, and I'm in pretty good shape, with no chronic health problems and no major physical woes. Still, there's no denying the significance of this half-century milestone. Fifty is, frankly, a little scary; from here on out it's all about maintenance.


But I got a tiny blip of joy from this Canadian report that shows the number of centenarians (at least those living in Ontario) increased over 70 percent in the last 15 years. Women are leading the trend, researchers report, "making up more than 85 percent of people over 100."

So, I face the next 50 years with some hope: At Thanksgiving, a 93-year-old relative of mine (who is now dating a 100-year-old man; they met at the 92nd Street Y in New York, apparently the meat market of the centenarian set) told me, "I'm really enjoying my 90s."

Here's more from the Canadian study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, via news release:

"Our study highlights that older people are living longer, and women make up a significant proportion of centenarians. The predominance of women among those of advanced age challenges us to consider tailoring health and social care to meet their particular needs," said Dr. Paula Rochon, lead author of the study and scientist at Women's College Research Institute and ICES.

The population-based study of centenarians used an estimated 1.8 million individuals 65 years of age and older. This study that documents changes to the size of the centenarian population over the past 15 years found:

•In Ontario, the number of centenarians increased from 1069 in 1995 to 1842 in 2010, a 72.3 per cent increase during this period.
•During the same time period, the 85-99 year age group increased from 119,955 to 227,703, an 89.8 per cent increase.
•Of the 1842 centenarians, 6.7 per cent were 105 years or older.
•Women represented 85.3 per cent of all centenarians and 89.4 per cent of those 105 years or older.
•Almost half lived in the community (20.0 per cent independently, 25.3 per cent with publicly funded home care).
•Preventive drug therapies (bisphosphonates and statins) were frequently dispensed.
•In the preceding year, 18.2 per cent were hospitalized and 26.6 per cent were seen in an emergency department.
•More than 95 per cent saw a primary care provider and 5.3 per cent saw a geriatrician.

Headshot of Rachel Zimmerman

Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



More from WBUR

Listen Live