Live To 100: Study Reveals Record Numbers Of Centenarians, Raises Questions On Care

If you are a British subject and wake up one morning to find you’ve turned 100-years-old, you should be expecting a personal letter from the Queen wishing you a happy 100th Birthday! And, according to CNN, the Queen is going through a lot of ink and may already be suffering from writer’s cramp as more and more of her subjects clear the century mark.

Letter from the Queen

The number of 100-year-olds, and beyond, isn’t just growing in the United Kingdom either, as more in the U.S. and around the world live to see 100 candles on their cake, get spanked 100 times…

Wait, does anyone still do the spanking thing? 100 spanks might be a bit much.

Anyway, a third of the babies born in the UK in 2013 are expected to see 100 years, according to their Office of National Statistics. A similar number of U.S. babies born in 2013 are expected to live to 100 also.

Studies exploring the centenarian population and its growth seek to find many things, including who might be be a centenarian candidate, and what ultimately ends the lives of those that live to 100.

One of these studies, recently published in PLOS Medicine, and lead by Dr. Catherine Evans, found that centenarians’ cause of death is usually listed as “old age”, indicating that people that live to 100 rarely die from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. No, the centenarian usually succumbs to something like pneumonia or just general frailty.

Evans pulled her data from U.K. death records of those who passed on between 2001 and 2010, using a group of 35,867 centenarians that were between 100 and 115 when they died.

Among the most striking finds for Evans was the size of the centenarian population. A lot of people are living to 100, with the number of centenarians nearly doubling every decade since the 1950s in the UK. By the end of the century, about 18 million people that have lived to 100 will form the global centenarian population.

Another important finding was that among those that live to 100, 61 percent wind down in a care facility and 27 percent pass in a hospital, with only 10 percent passing way at home.

Which raises unfortunate, but real and relevant questions regarding funding and managing quality care for those that live to 100 and the additional growing elderly population that is reaching for centenarian status.

The Daily Mail Online reports that hospitals are already being put under “unprecedented pressure” by the number of people that live to 100. The Daily Mail also caught up with Dr. Catherine Evans:

“We need to plan for healthcare services that meet the hidden needs of this (centenarian) group, who may decline rapidly if they succumb to an infection or pneumonia.” said Evans. “We need to boost high quality care home capacity and responsive primary and community health services to enable people to remain in a comfortable, familiar environment in their last months of life.”

May we all be so fortunate as to live to 100 while still in a comfortable environment, perhaps even receiving a letter from the Queen. Until then, cheers to all centenarians!