The Oldest Old People Are Getting Even Older

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100 birthday candles burning on a cake
Photo: David Malan/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

Getting to a triple-digit birthday was once a pretty impressive, rare feat. Just about 100 years ago, for example, the average person lived to be about 50. A baby born today, on the other hand, has a much better chance at living to 100, or beyond: According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ranks of the 100 club grew to 72,197 in 2014, a jump from the 50,281 reported in 2000. That’s a 44 percent increase in just 14 years.

Put another way, the death rate for centenarians decreased 14 percent for women and 20 percent for men during this study period, as Scientific American pointed out. Centenarians today — born at the turn of the century — are making some major inroads in delaying death thanks to improvements in medicine, usage of vaccines and antibiotics, and hygienic advances. But there are some unique patterns and indicators of who makes it to their 100th birthday cake: Women tend to outlast men, and female centenarian death rates are lower. Hispanics, in particular, tend to outlive other races; African-Americans have the highest mortality rates among centenarians. And when they do eventually die, it’s of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, cancer, the flu, or pneumonia.

Perhaps the best path to the 100 club, though, is simply enjoying life, as Daily Intelligencer recently showed in this gallery of five centenarians who don’t act their age. Then there’s the practical life advice of Brooklyn’s Susannah Mushatt Jones, who turned 116 in July and suggested not “drinking, smoking, or partying” to achieve her elderly status. Also, sleep. Jones officially became the world’s oldest person in July, and she’s still around today, so it seems she knows what she’s talking about.