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Senior Citizen Longevity & Statistics

Centenarians Match Boomers in Daily Exercise; Favorites are Walking, Muscle Building

100 year olds eat and sleep better than baby boomers; consider social connections a key to quality life

One of the centenarians tells his story on video. Link below story.

June 12, 2012 - Most centenarians say they exercise almost every day. Walking is their favorite physical activity but exercises to build muscle is almost as popular among those 100 years old and older, reports the UnitedHealthcare’s seventh annual 100@100 survey. This year baby boomers were also surveyed for comparison and there were surprises.

The new survey finds the nation’s centenarians are just as active – physically and socially – as the boomers half their age.

Nearly 45% of the super elderly cite walking as their favorite exercise, yet nearly as many centenarians (40%) do exercises to strengthen their muscles.

The survey finds that 100-year-olds also get creative with their workouts: 11% practice yoga, Tai Chi or another form of mind/body/spirit activity; 8% ride a bike regularly; 5% jog; and 2% engage in sports like baseball, basketball, soccer or tennis.


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Read more Longevity & Statistics on Senior Citizens


This year’s UnitedHealthcare 100@100 survey polled baby boomers in their early 50s in addition to centenarians to forecast the future of America’s rapidly expanding senior population and to determine how today’s oldest Americans can guide boomers’ strategies for successful aging.

UnitedHealthcare serves nearly 12,000 of the estimated 72,000 centenarians nationwide through its portfolio of Medicare plans. The U.S. Census bureau projects the centenarian population will swell more than eight-fold to more than 600,000 by 2050.

If they hope to follow in the footsteps of the surveyed centenarians and make it to the century mark, boomers should remember to maintain their social circles and sense of humor.

Centenarians are just as likely as boomers to talk with a friend or family member almost every day (89% each), and they are nearly as likely to attend a social event (26% of boomers vs. 24% of centenarians) and find something amusing enough to laugh or giggle (87% of boomers vs. 80% of centenarians) nearly every day.

“Some people have the perception that the oldest members of our society sit alone in a nursing home all day, but this year’s findings suggest that getting older doesn’t necessarily mean becoming less socially active,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, the nation’s largest business dedicated to the health and well-being needs of seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries.

“While genetics and maintaining a healthy body are important factors in living well into the 100s, this year’s survey participants have shown that staying socially engaged is just as important to healthy aging.”

Centenarians eat and sleep better than baby boomers

So what can boomers look forward to as they progress toward their 100th birthday? A healthier diet and more rest – 100-year-olds are outperforming boomers on consistently eating nutritiously balanced meals (81% vs. 68%) and getting eight hours or more of sleep per night (71% vs. 38%).

Both centenarians and boomers say it is more important to maintain physical health than mental and emotional health as they age, yet both groups agree it is also the most difficult to maintain. Centenarians and boomers rank physical health above mental health (40% vs. 32% of centenarians, and 50% vs. 24% of boomers) and emotional health (10% of centenarians, 9% of boomers) as the most important to maintain as they age.

When asked about activities they do to keep their minds healthy, centenarians and boomers appear to be on the same page. These activities include communicating regularly with friends, family and community members (88% of boomers, 82% of centenarians), reading (87% of boomers, 66% of centenarians), and exercising or staying physically active (74% of boomers, 65% of centenarians).

The survey also found that both groups believe that lifestyle choices have a greater impact on longevity than heredity, but the gap is much narrower among centenarians (centenarians: 43% lifestyle/36% heredity; boomers: 60% lifestyle/28% heredity).

Internet Access Doubles Among 100-Year-Olds, But They Say the Internet as We Know it Won’t Last

‘Internet won’t last’ but centenarians are using it more

The number of centenarians with Internet access has nearly doubled since last year’s survey: up to 25% from 13% in 2011. But just because they’re adopting it in greater numbers does not mean they believe it will be around forever.

Sixty-two% of centenarians and 80% of boomers think the Internet will be obsolete in less than 25 years, replaced by a new and better system. About one-third of each group gives the Internet a 10-year lifespan (33% of boomers, 31% of centenarians).

A majority of connected centenarians (56%) say they have used the Internet to view or share photos with family and friends. Centenarians with Internet access have also used the Internet to send and receive email (48%) and to search for information (44%), and they are almost as likely as boomers to have used an online dating service (6% of boomers vs. 4% of centenarians).

Nearly one in 10 centenarians (9%) has watched a video on YouTube. Even more have listened to music on an iPod or similar device or watched a TV program on a digital video recorder (12% each).

When it comes to social media, a majority of boomers have used Facebook (58%), but only 11% have used Twitter. Centenarians’ social lives are lived mostly offline: only 3% have used Facebook, and only one of the 100 centenarians surveyed has used Twitter.

Betty White and “Gone with the Wind”: Popular As Ever

Given the opportunity to invite a list of 14 famous people to a family dinner, centenarians’ most popular pick for the third year in a row was Betty White (65%), followed by a tie between George W. Bush and President Barack Obama (56% each).

Politicians, however, did not crack the top three invitees for boomers, who chose Betty White (78%), Tom Hanks (75%) and Paul McCartney (70%).

If dinner were to be followed by a movie, half of centenarians would pick “Gone with the Wind,” calling it the greatest movie from the past 100 years. Boomers’ top pick is a movie that is only seven years newer: “It’s a Wonderful Life” (33%).

2012 Elections: Strong Turnout Expected

Almost three-quarters of the 100 centenarians polled said they are heading to the polls in November. Both centenarians and boomers are fairly well aligned regarding their priorities for selecting the next president. Deemed most important are good guardianship of the economy (85% of boomers, 76% of centenarians), protecting the safety and security of the country by using the military (80% of boomers, 77% of centenarians), strong moral character (73% for both groups), and improving health care and education (72% of boomers, 70% of centenarians).

Some of the top issues driving the political dialogue are also top of mind for centenarians. More than a quarter (28%) say developments in green energy will have the greatest impact in the next 100 years, and nearly half (49%) do not think the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security should be raised, though the majority (54%) believes it will be.

About the Survey

GfK Roper interviewed 100 centenarians (individuals turning 100 this year or older) and 300 boomers (ages 50-55) by telephone from April 16 to May 2, 2012. Centenarians were interviewed using a list of pre-identified respondents in that age category. Boomers were selected by a random dialing sample derived from probability methods, with pre-identified age ranges. The centenarian sample is not weighted, as population targets for this group are not available. The sample of boomers was weighted to reflect their demographics in the U.S. population for this age range. The margin of sampling error for boomers is plus or minus 6.7%age points for a result of 50% at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample of boomers. The margin of sampling error is higher and varies for results based on subsamples.

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.

Additional Info:

>> UnitedHealthcare 100@100 Survey Results

>> UnitedHealthcare 100@100 Survey Video

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