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What Does it Feel Like To Be 100? Centenarians say: ‘83’May 12, 2014
Age is just a number, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey. Centenarians who participated in the survey say they feel 83 “years young” on average, while 65-year-old baby boomers say they feel 55.
Another key survey finding: “older” doesn't mean “lonelier.” In fact, the centenarians surveyed say they feel “blessed” (36%), “happy” (31%) and “surprised” (12%) to have lived to 100. Not one reports feeling sad or burdened; only 3% say they feel lonely. And more than half (53%) live independently, without the support of a caregiver to help them with their daily activities.
The ninth annual UnitedHealthcare 100@100 survey polled both centenarians and 65-year-old baby boomers to compare the attitudes and lifestyles of Americans entering their retirement years to those who have been considered seniors for 35 years or more. The U.S. Census Bureau projects the centenarian population will grow to more than 600,000 by 2050. UnitedHealthcare currently serves more than 14,600 centenarians.
What are the secrets of healthy aging?
It depends on whom you ask. For 100-year-olds, staying close to friends and family (91%), maintaining a sense of independence (88%) and eating right (86%) are paramount. For baby boomers, it's all about mindset: They rank maintaining a sense of independence and laughing/having a sense of humor as most important (87% for both), followed by staying close to family and friends (84%).
Both groups report actively managing their physical health. Nearly 9 in 10 see their primary care physician for an annual exam (87% of centenarians and 89% of baby boomers), and more than 7 in 10 keep up with vaccines (73% of centenarians and 72% of baby boomers).
They also stay active. The majority of centenarians and baby boomers say they walk or hike at least once per week (56% and 74%, respectively), and approximately one-third of both groups say they do strength-training exercises every week (32% of centenarians and 37% of baby boomers).
Nostalgia and milestones
When asked what stage in life they remember most fondly, both groups say their 30s (20% of centenarians and 24% of baby boomers). For some centenarians, however, life only got better with age — nearly 1 in 10 (9%) express the most fondness for ages 70 and up, with 3% saying the best time in their life is now.
Marriage and the birth of a child rank highest on both groups' lists of life milestones. However, they prioritize them differently. Baby boomers are more likely to say the birth of a child (32%) is the life milestone they remember most fondly rather than getting married (20%); for centenarians, it's the opposite (14% and 27%, respectively).
Reflecting on America and its values
More than half of baby boomers (58%) say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, but just 36% of centenarians agree. Baby boomers are also more likely than centenarians to say Americans' values have worsened during their lifetime (76% compared with 45%).
And although more than half of centenarians (56%) and nearly 4 in 10 baby boomers (39%) did not expect to see a black president in their lifetime, both groups do expect to witness another historic first in our nation's leadership: A majority of both groups expect to see a woman president in their lifetime (60% and 85%, respectively).