102-year-old Samuel Downing, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War, in 1864

A centenarian is a person who lives to or beyond the age of 100 years. Because life expectancies everywhere are less than 100, the term is invariably associated with longevity. A supercentenarian is a person who has lived to the age of 110 or more, something only achieved by about one in 1,000 centenarians. Even rarer is a person who has lived to age 115 – there are only 39 people in recorded history who have indisputably reached this age, of whom only Susannah Mushatt Jones, Emma Morano-Martinuzzi, Violet Brown and Nabi Tajima are still living.[1][2][3] In 2012, the United Nations estimated that there were 316,600 living centenarians worldwide.[4] As life expectancy is increasing across the world, and the world population has also increased rapidly, the number of centenarians is expected to rise fast in the future.[5] According to the UK ONS, one-third of babies born in 2013 in the UK are expected to live to 100.[6]


  • Current incidence 1
    • Centenarian populations by country 1.1
  • British and Commonwealth traditions 2
  • United States and other 3
  • Religious rituals 4
  • Centenarians in ancient times 5
  • Research into centenarians 6
    • Centenarian controversy in Japan 6.1
  • Youngest body part of a centenarian 7
  • Additional research: Media references 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12

Current incidence

Canadian centenarian Muriel Duckworth, photographed in honor of her 100th birthday in 2008

The United States currently has the greatest number of known centenarians of any nation with 53,364 according to the 2010 Census, or 17.3 per 100,000 people. In 2010, 82.8% of US centenarians were female.[7] Japan has the second-largest number of centenarians, with an estimated 51,376 as of September 2012,[8] and the highest proportion of centenarians at 34.85 per 100,000 people. Japan started recording its centenarians in 1963. The number of Japanese centenarians in that year was 153, but surpassed the 10,000 mark in 1998; 20,000 in 2003; and 40,000 in 2009. According to a 1998 United Nations demographic survey, Japan is expected to have 272,000 centenarians by 2050;[9] other sources suggest that the number could be closer to 1 million.[10] The incidence of centenarians in Japan was one per 3,522 people in 2008.[11]

Centenarian populations by country

The total number of centenarians in the world remains uncertain. It was estimated by the Population Division of the United Nations as 23,000 in 1950, 110,000 in 1990, 150,000 in 1995, 209,000 in 2000, 324,000 in 2005[12] and 455,000 in 2009.[13] However, these older estimates did not take into account the contemporary downward adjustments of national estimates made by several countries such as the United States; thus, in 2012, the UN estimated there to be only 316,600 centenarians worldwide.[4] The following table gives estimated centenarian populations by country, including both the latest and the earliest known estimates, where available.

Country Latest estimate (year) Earliest estimate (year) Centenarians per
100,000 people
Andorra 7 (2002)[14] 10.23
Argentina 3,487 (2010)[15] 8.69
Australia 4,252 (2011)[16] 1901 50 (1901) 18.75
Austria 1,371 (2014)[17] 232 (1990),[18] 1960 25 (1960)[18] 16.1
Belgium 1,890 (2014)[19] 1950 23 (1950)[20] 14.24
Brazil 23,760 (2010)[20] 12.46
Canada 7,569 (2011)[20] 22.31
China 48,921 (2011)[21] 1990 4,469 (1990),[20] 17,800 (2007)[22]
Czech Republic 625 (2011)[23] 2006 404 (2006) 5.92
Denmark 889 (2010)[20] 32 (1941)[24] 16.08
Estonia 42 (1990)[18] 2.67
Finland 566 (2010)[20] 1960 11 (1960)[18] 10.6
France 24,214 (1 January 2015)[25] 1900 100 (1900)[26] 36.5[27]
Germany 17,000 (2012)[28] 1885232 (1885)[29] 21
Hungary 799 (2009)[30] 1990227 (1990) 7.98
Iceland 32 (2015)[31] 1960 3 (1960)[18] 9.72
Ireland 389 (2011)[32] 87 (1990)[18] 8.48
Italy 19,095 (2015)[33] 1872 99 (1872)[24] 31.41
Japan 54,397 (2013)[8] 1950 111 (1950),[20] 155 (1960)[34] 42.76
Mexico 7,441 (2010) 1990 2,403 (1990) 6.62
Netherlands 1,743 (2010)[35] 1830 18 (1830)[36] 10.41
New Zealand 297 (1991)[37] 1960 18 (1960)[18] 5.92
Norway 636 (2010) 1951 44 (1951)[24] 13.1
Peru 1,682 (2011)[38] 5.58
Poland 2,414 (2009) 1970 500 (1970)[39] 6.27
Portugal 268 (1990)[18] 2.72
Singapore 724 (2011)[40] 1990 41 (1990)[18] 13.7
Slovenia 224 (2013)[41] 1953 2 (1953)[42] 10.88[41]
South Africa 15,581 (2011)[43] - 30.09
South Korea 14,592 (2014)[44] 961 29.06
Spain 15,373 (2015) [45] 4,269 (2002) [46] 33.10 (2015)[47]
Sweden 1,798 (2010) 1950 46 (1950) 19.1
Switzerland 1,306 (2010) 1860 7 (1860)[24] 16.64
Thailand 17,883 (2012)[48] 34,784 (2003)[48] 26.80
United Kingdom 13,780 (2013)[49] 1911 107 (1911)[24][50] 21.49
United States 53,364 (2010)[7] 1950 2,300 (1950)[51] 17.3
Uruguay 519 (2011)[52] 15.79[53]
World Estimates 316,600 (2012)[4] 1950 23,000 (1950) 4.44

British and Commonwealth traditions

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was one of the most well-documented centenarians, who lived until 101 years old.
An 1895 photograph of a Chaldean man from Mosul, Iraq, said to be 107 years old
Cambodian former Prime Minister Chau Sen Cocsal Chhum lived to be 103.
Italian Senator for life and Nobel prize winner Rita Levi-Montalcini lived to be 103 (was 99 in the picture).

In many countries, people receive a gift or congratulations on their 100th birthday. In the United Kingdom and the other

  • Okinawa Centenarian Study
  • Mortality of Centenarians via Princeton University
  • U.S. politicians who lived the longest via Political Graveyard
  • Noted Nonagenarians and Centenarians via Genarians.com
  • Centenarian research and celebration via AdlerCentenarians.org
  • Living Beyond 100 via International Longevity Center UK
  • Table of numbers of centenarians for select nations, 1960 and 1990 via Demogr.mpg.de
  • Centenarians’ Road Project website
  • Oldest People in Britain

External links

Further reading

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^
  6. ^ http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lifetables/historic-and-projected-data-from-the-period-and-cohort-life-tables/2012-based/sty-babies-living-to-100.html
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ (PDF)De plus en plus de centenaires au Japon. Agence France Presse via Avmaroc.com. 12 September 2008. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  12. ^ "World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision". United Nations. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  13. ^ "World Population Ageing 2009". (PDF) ST/ESA/SER.A/295. Population Division – Department of Economic and Social Affairs. United Nations. October 2010. p.27.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Indec 2010 Cuadro – Total del país. Población total por país de nacimiento, según sexo y grupo de edad (in Spanish). 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2013.
  16. ^ Article1Jun 2011 "3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2011". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 10 December 2011. Compare "3201.0 – Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories, Jun 2010". Australian Bureau of Statistics. 21 December 2010.
  17. ^ Austrian Demographics retrieved 1 October 2014
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  19. ^ "Structuur van de bevolking volgens leeftijd en geslacht: honderdjarigen". Direction générale Statistique et Information économique (DGSIE). 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g
  21. ^ China Daily. "China has over 48,000 centenarians". 8 November 2011; People's Daily Overseas Edition "China boasts nearly 50,000 centenarians". 8 November 2011; Xinhua. "China has over 48,000 centenarians: survey". 8 November 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  22. ^ Lee, Sharon. "17.8 thousand centenarians in China". Rednet.cn. 30 December 2007. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  23. ^ Prague Daily Monitor. "Number of centenarians rising in Czech Republic". 14 October 2011 (against 404 in November 2006: Horaova, Pavla. "Number of Centenarians Rising as Population Ageing Continues". Radio Praha. 15 November 2006).
  24. ^ a b c d e
  25. ^ Mayotte included. See Insee « Population totale par sexe et âge au 1er janvier 2015, France » (« data ») or "Pyramide des âges au 1er janvier 2015", January 2015.
  26. ^ INED « Nombre de centenaires » ; data.
  27. ^ Insee "Pyramide des âges au 1er janvier 2015", January 2015.
  28. ^ Magazine Focus 2013-2-8, retrieved 14. Nov. 2013
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Csak 89 ember el, aki a 19. szazdban szuletett". Zona.hu. 27 February 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  31. ^ "Mannfjöldi eftir kyni og aldri 1841-2015". Hagstofa Íslands. 21 March 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  32. ^ "Census 2011 Profile 2 - Older and Younger" Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  33. ^
  34. ^ Kannisto, Väinö (1994). "Development of Oldest-Old Mortality, 1950–1990: Evidence from 28 Developed Countries". Monographs on Population Aging. No.1. Odense University Press: Odense, Denmark. 108 pp. Updated 1 February 1999. Table5.
  35. ^ Garssen, Joop and Harmsen, Carel. "More Male Centenarians". Statistics Netherlands (CBS). 16 September 2010.
  36. ^ 1830 Census (in Dutch). Volkstellingen.nl. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  37. ^
  38. ^ EleccionesPeru and Elcomercio.pe. "1,682 electors are over 100 years". Lima, Peru. 7 February 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ a b
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^ a b
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ Krach, Constance A. and Velkoff, Victoria A (1999). "Centenarians in the United States". Current Population Reports (Series P23-199RV). U.S. Bureau of the Census. U.S. Government Printing Office. Washington, D.C. iii + 18 pp.
  52. ^
  53. ^ Total population: 3,285,877 + 437 homeless, per 2011 census data.
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^ "Fler 100-åringar ger hovet merarbete" (in Swedish). Göteborgs-Posten. 29 December 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  57. ^ Italian Translation. AllExperts.com. 21 June 2007. Retrieved 22 March 2012.
  58. ^ Mirko Grmek and Danielle Gourevitch (1998). Illness in Antiquity. Fayard.
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^ Bernoldi Chronicon (1097). MGH SS V, p. 465.
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^ "Blood tests 'could be used to predict lifespan'". The Daily Telegraph. 25 June 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
  68. ^ "Living longer thanks to the 'longevity gene'". PhysOrg.com. 3 February 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  69. ^
  70. ^ a b c d e f g h Santrock, John (2008). "Physical Development and Biological Aging". In Mike Ryan, Michael J. Sugarman, Maureen Spada, and Emily Pecora (eds.): A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development (pp. 129-132). New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
  71. ^ Japan Times (15 September 2010). "Centenarians to Hit Record 44,000". Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  72. ^ In 2006, official data from the Okinawa Prefectural government were slightly inflated because of a methodological flaw. See Willcox, D. Craig; Willcox, Bradley J.; He Qimei; Wang Nien-chiang and Suzuki Makoto. "They Really Are That Old: A Validation Study of Centenarian Prevalence in Okinawa". (PDF) The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. Vol. 63. 2008. pp. 338–349.
  73. ^
  74. ^
  75. ^
  76. ^
  77. ^
  78. ^ "Tokyo's 'oldest man' dead for 30 years". The Daily Telegraph. 29 July 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  79. ^ a b c "Nearly 200 of Japan's oldest citizens 'missing'". AFP. 11 August 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  80. ^ "Japanese man kept dead mother in backpack". The Daily Telegraph. 20 August 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  81. ^
  82. ^ Science World Report, 8 May 2013.
  83. ^ TIME.com, 9 May 2013, with news video.
  84. ^ Daily Mail, 8 May 2013.
  85. ^ CBS News, 9 May 2013.
  86. ^ New York Daily News, 8 May 2013.
  87. ^ Huffington Post, 7 May 2013
  88. ^ CBS affiliate KTVH 11, 8 September 2013. Includes photo of deceased.
  89. ^ Christian Science Monitor, 8 September 2013. Video, photo of house.
  90. ^ Daily Mail Online, 8 September 2013. Photos of exterior crime scene.
  91. ^ CBS News, 9 September 2013
  92. ^ Q13Fox News, 23 October 2013, with news video. "The city is forcing a 103-year-old Spokane woman to sell her parking lot in Seattle to make way for, well, a parking lot."
  93. ^ FOXNews.com, 25 October 2013. "The city of Seattle is using its power of eminent domain to force a 103-year-old woman to give up her private waterfront parking lot to make way for a city-owned parking lot."
  94. ^ KIRO Radio, 24 October 2013, with 9:38 audio link.
  95. ^
  96. ^
  97. ^
  98. ^


See also

  • Seattle forces 103-year-old to sell parking lot so city can turn it into — a parking lot[92][93][94]
  • 101-year-old, Japanese man Funchu Tamang rescued from the Nepal earthquake in 2015[95][96]
  • Japanese man Hidekichi Miyazaki, aged 105, breaks a new record as oldest sprinter,and earns a place in the Guinness World Record book[97][98]
  • 107-year-old Arkansas man Monroe Isadore dies in shootout with SWAT[88][89][90][91]
  • 105-Year-Old Texas Woman Pearl Cantrell Reveals Bacon as her Secret behind Long Life[82][83][84][85][86][87]

Centenarians are often the subject of news stories that focus on the fact that they are over 100 years old, like an elderly person receiving a speeding ticket for example Other than the typical birthday celebrations, these reports provide researchers and cultural historians with evidence as to how the rest of society views this elderly population. Some examples:

Additional research: Media references

By measuring the biological age of various tissues from centenarians, researchers may be able to identify tissues that are protected from aging effects. According to a study of 30 different body parts from centenarians and younger controls, the cerebellum is the youngest brain region (and probably body part) in centenarians according to an epigenetic biomarker of tissue age known as epigenetic clock: it is about 15 years younger than expected in a centenarian.[81] These findings could explain why the cerebellum exhibits fewer neuropathological hallmarks of age related dementias compared to other brain regions.

Youngest body part of a centenarian

In July 2010, a centenarian listed as the oldest living male in Tokyo, registered to be aged 111, was found to have died some 30 years before; his body was found mummified in its bed,[78] resulting in a police investigation into centenarians listed over the age of 105. Soon after the discovery, the Japanese police found that at least 200 other Japanese centenarians were "missing", and began a nationwide search in early August 2010.[79] This incident led to growing concerns that Japan's welfare system can be exploited by unscrupulous family members keen to continue receiving benefits after the pensioners die.[79] In one case, the remains of a mother thought to be 104 had been stuffed into her son's backpack for nearly a decade;[80] in another, a man received around 9.5 million yen in pension payments despite his wife having died six years previously.[79]

The number of Japanese centenarians was called into question in 2010, following a series of reports showing that hundreds of thousands of elderly people had gone "missing" in the country. The deaths of many centenarians had not been reported, casting doubt on the country's reputation for having a large population of centenarians.[74][75][76][77]

Centenarian controversy in Japan

A historical study from Korea found that male eunuchs in the royal court had a centenarian rate of over 3%, and that eunuchs lived on average 14 to 19 years longer than uncastrated men.[73]

Although these factors vary from those mentioned in the previous study, the culture of Okinawa has proven these factors to be important in its large population of centenarians.[70]

  1. A diet that is heavy on grains, fish, and vegetables and light on meat, eggs, and dairy products.
  2. Low-stress lifestyles, which are proven significantly less stressful than that of the mainland inhabitants of Japan.
  3. A caring community, where older adults are not isolated and are taken better care of.
  4. High levels of activity, where locals work until an older age than the average age in other countries, and more emphasis on activities like walking and gardening to keep active.
  5. Spirituality, where a sense of purpose comes from involvement in spiritual matters and prayer eases the mind of stress and problems.[70]

Many experts attribute Japan's high life expectancy to the typical Japanese diet, which is particularly low in refined simple carbohydrates, and to hygienic practices. The number of centenarians in relation to the total population was, in September 2010, 114% higher in Shimane Prefecture than the national average. This ratio was also 92% higher in Okinawa Prefecture.[70][71][72] In Okinawa, studies have shown five factors that have contributed to the large number of centenarians in that region:[70]

Santrock's book also noted that the largest group of centenarians are women who have never married.[70] Also, people who have been through traumatic life events learn to cope better with stress and poverty and are more likely to reach age 100.[70]

  1. heredity and family history
  2. health, i.e. weight, diet, whether or not a person smokes, amount of exercise
  3. education level
  4. personality
  5. lifestyle[70]

According to John W. Santrock's book A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development, there are five factors that research has suggested are most important to longevity in centenarians:[70]

Men and women who are 100 or older tend to have extroverted personalities, according to Thomas T. Perls, the director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University. Centenarians will often have many friends, strong ties to relatives and high self-esteem. In addition, some research suggests that the offspring of centenarians are more likely to age in better cardiovascular health than their peers.[69]

Other research has found that people whose parents became centenarians have an increased number of naïve B cells. It is well known that the children of parents who have a long life are also likely to reach a healthy age, but it is not known why, although the inherited genes are probably important.[67] A variation in the gene FOXO3A is known to have a positive effect on the life expectancy of humans, and is found much more often in people living to 100 and beyond - moreover, this appears to be true worldwide.[68]

Research in Italy suggests that healthy centenarians have high levels of both vitamin A and vitamin E and that this seems to be important in causing their extreme longevity.[63] Other research contradicts this, however, and has found that this theory does not apply to centenarians from Sardinia, for whom other factors probably play a more important role.[64] A preliminary study carried out in Poland showed that, in comparison with young healthy female adults, centenarians living in Upper Silesia had significantly higher red blood cell glutathione reductase and catalase activities, although serum levels of vitamin E were not significantly higher.[65] Researchers in Denmark have also found that centenarians exhibit a high activity of glutathione reductase in red blood cells. In this study, the centenarians having the best cognitive and physical functional capacity tended to have the highest activity of this enzyme.[66]

Research into centenarians

Numerous other historical figures were reputed to have lived past 100. The sixth dynasty Egyptian ruler Pepi II is believed by some Egyptologists to have lived to 100 or more (c. 2278 – c. 2184 BC), as he is said to have reigned for 94 years.[59] However this is disputed: others say he only reigned 64 years.[60] Hosius of Córdoba, the man who convinced Constantine the Great to call the First Council of Nicaea, reportedly lived to age 102. The Chronicon of Bernold of Constance records the death in 1097 of Azzo marchio de Longobardia, pater Welfonis ducis de Baiowaria, commenting that he was iam maior centenario.[61] Ultimately, there is no reason to believe that centenarians did not exist in antiquity, even if they were not commonplace.[62]

Diogenes Laertius (c. AD 250) gives one of the earliest references regarding the plausible centenarian longevity given by a scientist, the astronomer Hipparchus of Nicea (c. 185 – c. 120 BC), who, according to the doxographer, assured that the philosopher Democritus of Abdera (c. 470/460 – c. 370/360 BC) lived 109 years. All other ancient accounts of Democritus appear to agree that the philosopher lived at least 90 years. However, such longevity would not be dramatically out of line with that of other ancient Greek philosophers thought to have lived beyond the age of 90 (e.g. Xenophanes of Colophon, c. 570/565 – c. 475/470 BC; Pyrrho of Ellis, c. 360 - c. 270 BC; Eratosthenes of Cirene c. 285 – c. 190 BC). The case of Democritus differs from those of, for example, Epimenides of Crete (7th and 6th centuries BC), who is said to have lived an implausible 154, 157 or 290 years, depending on the source.

While the density of centenarians per capita was much lower in ancient times than today, the data suggest that they were not unheard of. However, ancient demographics are biased in favor of wealthy or powerful individuals rather than the ordinary person. Grmek and Gourevitch speculate that during the Classical Greek period, anyone who lived past the age of five years – surviving all the common childhood illnesses of that era – had a reasonable chance of living to a relatively old age. Life expectancy in 400 BC was estimated to be around 30 years. One demographer of ancient civilizations reported that Greek men lived to 45 years on average (based on a sample size of 91), while women lived to 36.2 years (based on a sample size of 55). Notably, the gender statistics are inverted compared to today – childbirth at the time had a far higher mortality rate than in modern times, skewing female statistics downward. It was common for average citizens to take great care in their hygiene, Mediterranean diet and exercise, although there was much more male trauma per capita than today, due to military service being virtually universal for citizens of Ancient Greece. This also biased the statistics for men downward.[58]

Centenarians in ancient times

An aspect of blessing in many cultures is to offer a wish that the recipient lives to 100 years old. Among Hindus, people who touch the feet of elders are often blessed with "May you live a hundred years". In Sweden, the traditional birthday song states, May he/she live for one hundred years. In Judaism, the term May you live to be 120 years old and three months is a common blessing. In Poland, Sto lat, a wish to live a hundred years, is a traditional form of praise and good wishes, and the song "sto lat, sto lat" is sung on the occasion of the birthday celebrations—arguably, it is the most popular song in Poland and among Poles around the globe. Chinese emperors were hailed to live ten thousand years, while empresses were hailed to live a thousand years. In Italy, "A hundred of these days!" (cento di questi giorni) is an augury for birthdays, to live to celebrate 100 more birthdays.[57] Some Italians say "Cent'anni!", which means "a hundred years", in that they wish that they could all live happily for a hundred years. In Greece, wishing someone Happy Birthday ends with the expression να τα εκατοστήσεις (na ta ekatostisis), which can be loosely translated as "may you make it one hundred birthdays".

Religious rituals

In the United States, centenarians traditionally receive a letter from the President, congratulating them for their longevity. NBC's Today Show show has also named new centenarians on air since 1983. Centenarians born in Ireland receive a €2,540 "Centenarians' Bounty" and a letter from the President of Ireland, even if they are resident abroad.[55] Japanese centenarians receive a silver cup and a certificate from the Prime Minister of Japan upon their 100th birthday, honouring them for their longevity and prosperity in their lives. Swedish centenarians receive a telegram from the King and Queen of Sweden.[56] Centenarians born in Italy receive a letter from the President of Italy. In Japan, a "National Respect for the Aged Day" has been celebrated every September since 1966.

United States and other