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Centenarians in the U.S.

Sarah Stevenson
By Sarah StevensonSeptember 11, 2015

A report from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals a 66% increase in the number of 100-year-old Americans. Which Americans are living to be centenarians? If you’re a Caucasian woman living in the Midwest or Northeast, your odds of living to 100 are more favorable.

Learn more about centenarians in the U.S.

A Portrait of Centenarians in the U.S.

Both centenarians and supercentenarians — those aged 100-110 or older — live across America. According to the U.S. Census, there are 330 supercentenarians in the U.S. and from 1980-2010, there was a 65% increase in the number of Americans 100 years old or older.

The total was reported to be 53,364 centenarians on the 2010 Census with the majority of centenarians identifying themselves as Caucasian women.

  • 83% are women
  • 60-70% are disabled
  • 50% have dementia
  • 30% live at home
  • 20%-25% are cognitively intact
  • 12% African-American
  • 6% Hispanic
  • 2.5% Asian-American

The Centenarian Study, a long-term study conducted by the University of Georgia, found that “20-25% of centenarians are community-dwelling, cognitively intact and generally vibrant and full of life” — however, more than half of centenarians have some form of dementia, and 60-70% are disabled.

Quality of life, therefore, varies widely for our oldest seniors.

Where Are Centenarians in the U.S.?

The geographic distribution of U.S. centenarians reveals some interesting trends.

The region with the highest overall number of centenarians was the South, but the Northeast and Midwest had the highest proportion of centenarians compared with the overall population.

California was the state with the highest number of centenarians — 5,921 — while Alaska had the fewest — just 40.

Most centenarians are likely to live in an urban area, perhaps because conveniences and support systems are close by. But, rather surprisingly, about a third of centenarians live alone at home. Male centenarians were more likely to live in a household with others, while over a third of female centenarians reported living in an assisted living community.

What We Can Learn From Centenarians

Centenarian studies are critical to our understanding and improvement of the quality of life for seniors as they age. Not only that, we can learn a lot about healthy aging and perhaps even prolong life expectancy by figuring out how these seniors have lived so long.

When centenarians are asked how to live a long life, having an optimistic attitude is one piece of advice usually at the top of their lists.

The Centenarian Study credits the following longevity factors:

  • A strong social support system
  • Good health habits
  • High levels of cognition

Do you know a centenarian? What have you learned from the centenarian population? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Sarah Stevenson
Sarah Stevenson
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