Posted on Jan 12, 2020, 3 p.m.
Around the globe humans in general are living longer, and in most places life expectancy at birth has been increasing steadily; some studies have estimated that the average life expectancy has been increasing at a rate of a quarter year annually, this increase has contributed to the rise of those that are very old, which brings many questions about what traits do these longevity warriors have in common.
In 1899 the first recorded supercentenarian died at the age of 110 years and 4 months old and since then lifespans have continued to extend. A French woman born February 21, 1875 currently holds the record, living to the age of 122 years and 164 days old, dying on August 4, 1997. But according to research that record shouldn’t last for too much longer as researchers from the University of Southern Denmark believe that there is a 25% chance that record will be broken by 2050.
A similar study also conducted by researchers from the same university of close to 17,000 Swedish and Danish centenarians found the oldest of the old from Denmark were dying at increasingly higher ages, but this upward trend was not not observed in Swedish longevity warriors. The main study published in the journal Demography investigated what these two countries may be doing differently for their elderly citizens.
Anthony Medford and Kaare Christensen found stark differences between the health of the oldest of the old in the two countries, and cited another study published in The Journals of Gerontology that found improvements in the health of centenarians could be measured with Activities of Daily Living, which are all activities that include basic tasks necessary for independent living such as being able to bathe and dress unaided.
In Denmark female centenarians had an improved ADL, the trend was reflected in more centenarians reaching supercentenarian status; this trend and ADL improvement in the oldest of the old was not seen in Sweden, a study even found deterioration in mobility, cognition, and performance testing. Findings are significant from a public health point of view, as it suggests that centenarians require a sense of normalcy regarding their day to day activities.
The researchers also found huge differences between the health systems: Sweden was underfunded while Denmark was adequately funded: In Sweden, the elderly are not provided as much support in terms of care, and healthcare spending cuts are disproportionately affecting those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder which includes the elderly; a similar socioeconomic trend is also being seen in North America between Canada and America.
However, the researchers believe that the number of centenarians will not decrease, even in Sweden, which they attribute to advances in technology and quality of life which greatly benefit most of humanity overall, and longevity warriors may benefit the most from advancements in living conditions because of their inherent resilience and durable physiology. These trends are not definitive, but the researchers believe they should be taken into account when making suggestions and decisions for the health of society’s longevity warriors.
Another thing not mentioned in the study is the role of healthy lifestyle options in creating longevity warriors such as staying active, regular exercise, plenty of mental stimulation through learning and social interaction, following a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and keeping stress in check which have all been shown to improve multiple longevity risk factors.
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