There are more than 14,000 people who are 100 or older in the UK, according to government data. In fact, the Queen even had to expand her birthday card writing team a couple of years ago to cope with the surge of new centenarians!
That’s a lot of people in the UK blowing out 100 candles. But why do some people live such an extraordinarily long time? And what can we learn from them?
Community and activity
New research suggests that being active for life is a big plus when it comes to living longer. There’s no need for a passive old age! Even now, most of those who are over 100 still complete mental and physical challenges on a daily basis.
You don’t have to be like Fauja Singh — the 100-year-old marathon runner. Even simple activities like stretching and walking provide immense health benefits. For the mental part of the equation, challenging games like bridge can help you keep your mind sharp.
Can a good diet help you reach the 100+ club?
It’s tempting to think that you’ll be able to add a few years to your life expectancy if you watch what you eat… but is it really true?
According to the BBC, older people who eat a diet rich in ice cream, cheese and whole milk are at higher risk of death. Those who eat lots of sweets and desserts are also at risk. In comparison, those who eat lots of fish, poultry, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are at lower risk.
Women live longer than men — but men are catching up!
In 2002, there were eight women aged 100-104 for every man of that age. But the most recent numbers show that the difference is narrowing. In 2016, there were five women aged 100-104 for every man of that age. That’s still a big difference, but the gap has certainly narrowed.
What causes the difference in life expectancy? We don’t really know for sure. It’s not entirely explained by the fact that men often have more physically demanding jobs and tend to drink and smoke more. It’s possibly genetic, or a combination of factors we’re yet to fully uncover.
Can a friendly community help you live longer?
Loneliness isn’t just a sad state of affairs — it can quite possibly be damaging to your health, too. Researchers have suggested that the stress of loneliness can lower our immune systems, making us more vulnerable to deadly diseases.
By contrast, being married seems to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease! It’s not quite clear why this might be; could it be the fact that married people persuade each other to make healthier choices?
Not married? A good companion provides much of the same benefit as a spouse. You can also try going to church! Regular churchgoers have a lower risk of both cancer and cardiovascular diseases. It’s thought that this is because congregations tend to look out for one another.
Vices and virtues
Most of those who live to 100 never smoked, but many did (and still do) enjoy the occasional glass of wine or cocktail! The lesson is clear: don’t smoke and if you do drink, drink in moderation.
Where do 100-year-olds in the UK live?
This may surprise you, but Wales is the country in the UK with the highest proportion of those aged 90 and over. Maybe there’s something in the air? England comes second, followed by Scotland and then Northern Ireland.
The original “baby boom” is a big factor
In the end, it’s largely down to numbers. After the First World War, there was a big spike in the number of births as young men returned from the front and married their sweethearts. Lots of the babies that were born in 1918 are turning 100 this year!
Ian Willis is the Director of Abney and Baker — a domiciliary care provider in Bath that does things differently. Ian has built his company on the foundational values of dignity, respect, pride and quality!