It turns out that living to 100 is a real possibility for many of us in our 70s and for half of kids now in preschool.
The 2012 Census reported about 53,000 centenarians in the U.S., but the numbers are growing rapidly. It's projected that by 2040, there will be nearly a million centenarians (80% of them women), and that number will exceed a million by 2050! Laura Carstensen, founding director of Stanford's Center on Longevity, believes even these may be conservative estimates.
Yes, we have begun to control acute illnesses and now face the prospect of chronic conditions accompanying us into the remarkable future. But half of us will not have Alzheimer's, and with longevity, we have the potential to live with a sense of well-being even in the face of physical changes.
Research at Albert Einstein School of Medicine on families with siblings all reaching their 100th birthday finds that there are important genetic markers that protect these "Superagers" from memory decline, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Amazingly, efforts are underway to duplicate the proteins that result from these genetic influences, with hopes of creating a life-expanding pill! Would you take that pill? We think we would... maybe...
But our DNA is only a partial influence on longevity. For well-being in later life, we can heed the advice of many and follow the example of those living in the world's Blue Zones described by Dan Buettner: Fresh air, natural exercise, healthful diet, good sleep, socialization and little stress or worry... and the PERMA of Martin Seligman and Positive Psychology: Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships and Accomplishments.
And we can be inspired by role models such as Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, who retired from a successful career as a journalist only to begin a second career as an environmental spokeswoman. She played an important role in the establishment of the Everglades National Park and continued this second career into her 100's. She was still conducting interviews at 103, and a friend saw her in a video at 107.She died in 1998 at 108. One way to approach our own old-old age is to start making note of these marvelous stories. What others are out there?