A New Era of Human Longevity

Happy Birthday Irene Ciuffoletti!

Irene Ciuffoletti, a nursing home resident in Pennsylvania, celebrated her 113th birthday last week with other residents, enjoying cake and music. A widow for more than half a century, she has outlived all but one of her five sons. She was already a centenarian when she arrived at the nursing home in 2008, becoming an active participant ever since in daily Mass and weekly bingo. She still propels her wheelchair around the facility herself while remaining quite healthy for her age. According to staff, “she does whatever she can for herself, and we assist with the rest.”

Helen Wheat, who turned 113 in September, lives in nearby Frederick, MD. She is one of at least four living Americans born before Mrs. Ciuffoletti, the oldest of them Susannah Mushatt Jones, 116, of Brooklyn, N.Y., also recognized as the oldest person in the world. However, no one has come anywhere close to matching the longevity record of Jeanne Louise Calment, a French woman who lived to age 122. At the time of her death in 1997, there was speculation she was leading the way to a new era of human longevity. Now, the new era is becoming more and more of a reality.

The Number of Americans who are 100+ is up 44%  

According to the New York Times, “(t)he number of Americans age 100 and older — those born during Woodrow Wilson’s administration and earlier — is up by 44% since 2000.” There were 72,197 of them in 2014, up from 50,281 in 2000, according to the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1980, they numbered about 15,000.  “There is certainly a wow factor here, that there are this many people in the United States over 100 years old,” said William H. Frey, the senior demographer at the Brookings Institution. “Not so long ago in our society, this was somewhat rare.” 
Why are People Living so Much Longer? 

Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, says genetics rather than lifestyle choices is the biggest factor in explaining extreme longevity, but “artificial means also help people more commonly reach a second century of life than before. In addition, chances of survival to such ripe ages have improved with the rise of vaccines and antibiotics, and improvements in hygiene, medical treatments and technology.”  

Below are some tips from centenarians themselves (from The Longevity Project): 

1. Develop good social ties with a healthy community. Are you close with an extended healthy family, or with a volunteer social group or prosocial religious community? Do you have a worthwhile career or positive educational endeavor? These things are certainly helpful. 

2. Stay physically active in whatever way works for you. Do anything but stay sitting! However, you don’t have to do yoga, run marathons, or go deep-sea fishing if those things bore or bother you.

3. Forget tobacco and substance abuse. But you already know that.

4. Be responsibly prudent. Consider the things your mother, teachers, and doctors and nurses advised from wearing seatbelts to protecting against sexually transmitted diseases and keeping up with medical visits.  

5. Avoid obesity. Eat proper amounts of nutritious food. 

6. Have a best friend. Or two.

7. Have something worthwhile or meaningful that you do in your life. 

For more details, please check out the “Secret to a long life, from those who’ve lived them” (NY Times video). Please also read “What People Who Live to 100 Have in Common,”  in US News, and my blog post, “Secrets of Centenarians,” for more details. 

How America Can Handle the Challenges of an Aging Population 

According to The New York Times, “(e)xperts are warning that the United States is unprepared to handle such large numbers of seniors, especially as the life expectancy of older people continues to rise.” According to the Institute of Medicines’s report,Retooling for an Aging America,” our aging population is the most diverse the nation has ever seen, with more education, increased longevity, more widely dispersed families, and more racial and ethnic diversity, making their needs much different than previous generations. There is currently a dramatic shortage of all types of health care workers, especially those in long-term care settings. Finally, the overall health care workforce is inadequately trained to care for older adults. The following needs to be done to help American handle the challenges of an aging population:
  • Enhance the geriatric competence of the entire workforce;
  • Increase the recruitment and retention of geriatric specialists and caregivers;
  • Improve the way care is delivered.
I will continue to keep you updated as I read more information on this important topic. For details on where our presidential candidates stand on aging and senior issues, such as Social Security and Medicare, please click here

Planning for Your Future 

Luck and genetics play roles in longevity, of course, but you can’t control that. If you want to better your odds of living to 100 and beyond, focus on what you can do, such as eating healthy, exercising, and minimizing stress. As you are taking care of yourself and enjoying your life, it is also a good idea to plan for your future and for your loved ones. Our firm is dedicated to helping protect seniors preserve dignity, quality of life, and financial security. If you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), or if you have a loved one who is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, please call us to make an appointment for a consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law Attorney: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law Attorney: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law Attorney: 202-587-2797
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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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