In my daily work with seniors, I often see individuals who are in their nineties. Yet, right now I have three amazing clients who are over 100 years old! This is certainly not unusual, but a wonderful experience nonetheless. While the US has the most centenarians overall, when ranked per capita we don’t even crack the top ten. The top four places with the most centenarians are all island nations…
according to a study from Lottie.org. “First place goes to Guadeloupe, an archipelago in the Caribbean where there are 299 centenarians – or 75 per 100,000 people. That’s an increase of about 80% since 2000.”
If you aren’t fortunate enough to live on a peaceful, tropical island, and you still make it to the century mark, I believe there is something special going on. You can read a lot about centenarian’s diet, genetics, lifestyle etc., but what I have noticed with my over 100’s is a combination of a few traits. The current two men are both WWll veterans who endured hardship and persevered through wartime combat.
One went on to be a successful business entrepreneur transforming several industries into what they are today. He describes himself as a futurist. Another was a Julliard musician before he went into the war. Afterwards he gave up being a musician and worked in the retail industry. Both had families and fulfilling lives. My 100+ female client worked in the mental health field until her 90’s, and also had a successful family life.
Each of these individuals has maintained a busy, fulfilling life with purpose…well beyond their formal careers. Another common thread with all three is their very positive attitudes. They have demonstrated this positivity in various ways, through either work or family, focused on helping others. They have effected change in the world, or on a more personal level, just being supportive of their own spouse or children in their endeavors.
Even a well-maintained human body can become quite frail when over 100, but if the mind is still sharp, the insights and perspective of a person this old is truly fascinating. If you ever have the opportunity to meet a person over 100, embrace it and be sure to ask questions. You might be surprised by what you learn…and what you give back. It truly benefits elders when you ask advice as it can give them a sense of purpose.
Joan Garbow, MSW, LCSW, CCM is co-president of The Aging Life Care Association, New England chapter. Through her private practice, Joan Garbow and Associates, she provides expert guidance and assistance to individuals and families dealing with eldercare challenges throughout Western Connecticut.