So You Want To Live To 100? Good Luck

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There is little question that I won’t live to be 100 years old. It’s not something I endeavor towards nor do I think it’s possible. That said, my grandmother was a hard-drinking chain-smoker that died at the age of 101 in 1999. That’s 15 years of medical advances that she didn’t enjoy, to say nothing of the fact that on two separate occasions she caused minor(?) explosions in her nursing home sneaking a cigarette near an oxygen valve or oxygen tank. The fact is, even the healthiest among us can go at any time. Marathon runners with healthy diets still get into car accidents.

Small portion of women get there

In the United States only 0.02% of the population will ever live to 100. That’s 55,000 people over a century in a country that has a population north of 300 million. And let’s face it, unless you hang around in nursing homes on a regular basis you may never meet one. Living and functioning are two different animals. This percentage comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s examination of data from the years 2007-2011 provided by the American Community Survey.

Looking further into the data, in addition to not having many peers your own age, you will likely be a widowed woman given the female of the species has a proclivity for outliving men and to a considerably lesser extent the illegality of gay marriage until recent years. Of this group, 17% of those over a hundred live in poverty, a figure double the rate for people over 65 years of age.

When they do live to 100, they do it with less money

The reason for this isn’t examined in the bureau’s report, but it would make sense that the inequality of pay, that still exists but was even more prevalent in the past, is the reason. Women who make it to 100 have a mean retirement income of $12,200 per year, a number that keeps them just north of the poverty line. The rare man who sees the century make has a mean retirement income of over 50% greater at $17,500.

As a result of past and ongoing inequality in pay, woman are retiring with less money and receiving fewer benefits based on, for example, contributions to Social Security. These points were recently pointed out by U.S. Senator Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn.) in an interview with CBS’s MoneyWatch earlier this week. She also pointed out that women who live longer will require more medical treatment, something made difficult by their lower savings and income.

If you don’t come from a family that has seen members live past a hundred, your chances of getting there with your “bad genes” are lowered. That said, feel free to save a little more in case you buck the trend.

According to the New England Centenarian Study, the median survival age for centenarians is 103, but don’t count on 110 once you see a hundred. Globally, there are only 71 of those and a few don’t have a birth certificate to prove it owing to the Great Chicago Fire(?).

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About the Author

Brendan Byrne
While studying economics, Brendan found himself comfortably falling down the rabbit hole of restaurant work, ultimately opening a consulting business and working as a private wine buyer. On a whim, he moved to China, and in his first week following a triumphant pub quiz victory, he found himself bleeding on the floor based on his arrogance. The same man who put him there offered him a job lecturing for the University of Wales in various sister universities throughout the Middle Kingdom. While primarily lecturing in descriptive and comparative statistics, Brendan simultaneously earned an Msc in Banking and International Finance from the University of Wales-Bangor. He's presently doing something he hates, respecting French people. Well, two, his wife and her mother in the lovely town of Antigua, Guatemala. To contact Brendan or give him an exclusive, please contact him at [email protected]

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