Want to live to one hundred? Your chances are better than ever as the centenarian population explodes worldwide amid expectations it will quadruple in the next decade.
And we’re not only likely to live longer, but also enjoy greater health and wellbeing into our tenth decade as researchers pinpoint the secrets to longevity and long-term wellness.
The number of Australians reaching 100 has increased almost 10 per cent a year for the past 25 years, making them the fastest growing age segment in Australia. According to the 2006 census Australia has 3154 centenarians.
We also have the fourth highest life expectancy in the world, behind the US, Japan, France and Italy,
And as achieving triple figures becomes more commonplace, researchers expect to see an increase in super, and semi-super centenarians – those aged over 110, and 105 respectively.
And uncovering the secret to such longevity can offer us important tools to increasing our own life spans, according to Professor Robyn Richmond, from the University of NSW School of Public Health and Community Medicine.
After studying 190 centenarians for the Australian Centenarian Study, Professor Richmond found that longevity is more about personality than genes.
Professor Richmond said being optimistic, able to cope with change and loss, and well connected socially can all add candles to our birthday cakes.
Previous studies have shown that those lucky enough to make it to triple figures are often what one Havard research team dubbed ‘stress shredders’.
“Centenarians are less likely to feel anxious or vulnerable, they are open and flexible to change and are able to get on with life when awful things happen to them,” Professor Richmond said.
“A strong social system is terribly conducive to a long life, as is spirituality, and maintaining a healthy weight.”
She said centenarians had much lower rates of depression and anxiety than the general population and had managed to escape serious illness.
“Only 20 per cent had any signs of dementia, and only 29 per cent had any cardiovascular disease, and largely that developed much later in life.”
Professor Richmond, who presented her study at the International Federation on Ageing Conference in Melbourne this week said although centenarians had previously been a hidden group, as their numbers grew to a projected 12,000 by 2010 society would be more aware of them.
“They are shining beacons for a positive life,” she said.
The Japanese island of Okinawa has the greatest concentration of centenarians in the world, and researchers have been studying the population to find out why.
“We boil it all down to four factors: diet, exercise, psycho-spiritual and social,” says researcher Bradley Willcox, from the Okinawa Centenarian Study.
How do you rate your chances of living to 100? Will you make it?