Do you hope to live to celebrate a 100th birthday?
If you’re like me, you’re ambivalent. It depends, of course, on staying reasonably healthy with a sound mind and a meaningful life.
Still, we’re so fascinated by that century benchmark that we’ve made it the focus of popular websites, scientific careers and a slew of lifestyle advice.
Well, Minnesotans had 1,211 experts on the subject in 2010, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s how many state residents had earned 100 birthday candles, whether or not they actually got that many.
Nationwide, 53,364 people age 100 and older were counted on Census Day. And they were overwhelmingly female.
“For every 100 centenarian women, there were only 20.7 centenarian men,” says a summary of the report.
They also were predominantly white – 82.5 percent, compared with the estimate that 72.4 percent of the total population was white in 2010.
And, even given the advances of modern medicine, they remain quite rare. Fewer than two people in 10,000 Americans were 100 or older.
Still no fountain of youth
The census findings are remarkable if you think across the span of the human pursuit of longevity, to say nothing of eternal life. Sure we live longer on average than did our great-grandparents. But pushing beyond the century threshold remains highly unlikely, at least for now.
Nearly two-thirds of the centenarians counted in 2010 were age 100 to 101. Just 330 supercentenarians – those 110 years or older – were counted. And the Census Bureau warns that count may be flawed because memories can fade over time, even when it comes to your own age. And records can be lost.
To be sure, there were more American centenarians in 2010 (53,364) than in 1980 (32,194). That’s a greater increase than the growth in the overall population. (The report didn’t give state breakouts for this measure and many others in the report.)
Meanwhile, though, a good many Minnesotans are candidates for reaching the ranks of the centenarians. The state had more than 38,000 residents in their 90s and 167,000 in their 80s.
Population by Age Group: 2010
|70-79||80-89||90-99||100 and older|
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Here are other census findings about the nation’s centenarians:
- They’re city folk; 85.7 percent lived in urban areas.
- Most lived in the South (think warm winters), followed in order by the Midwest, the Northeast and the West.
- California had the largest number of centenarians (think warm winters plus large state population), followed by New York, Florida and Texas. Alaska had the fewest, coming in just behind Wyoming, Vermont and Delaware.
- Close to half (44 percent) of the centenarian men lived with others in a household, while just over one-third of the women (35 percent) lived in nursing homes.
Of course, the questions we always want to ask the centenarians relate to the lifestyle secrets of longevity, even knowing that genes are a big factor. Did those people smoke? Eat meat? Work out? Drink beer?
The census doesn’t speak to those questions. But you can find hints elsewhere – for example, on the Living to 100 website.