In the UK 25% of the children born today and 20% of younger individuals aged under 20  can expect to become centenarians, making living to 100 an increasingly common demographic achievement. However, while there has been some attention given to the predictors of living to 100, there exists a dearth of research on the lives of centenarians and the specific needs of individuals who reach 100. The International Longevity Centre UK, supported by Age UK, published a report today on “Living Beyond 100″  which reviews the existing evidence on centenarians.
According to ONS 2011 estimates, there are currently 12,640 centenarians in the UK , although this group is expected to reach over half a million by 2066 . Centenarians are found to be relatively healthier than may be expected of people who have reached such an old age, with over half postponing the onset of a number of non-communicable diseases associated with old age until after age 80, or avoiding such diseases altogether. A combination of genetic and lifestyle factors have been attributed to this notion of centenarians as a model of healthy ageing. However, the centenarian population may face other challenges, including high susceptibility to dementia and to falls. Centenarians are also more likely to be at risk of poverty due to prolonged periods of economic inactivity, with spells in retirement that are of equal length or longer than periods in work. Quality of life was also found to decrease with age. The report outlines how some studies report that centenarians gain social resources from contact from family and friends, but are unlikely to gain such resources from participation in groups or clubs, as levels of organisational membership decline with age. Critically, the report highlights the paucity of conclusive evidence on the experience of UK centenarians, and particularly those within communal establishments.After reviewing the extant evidence on centenarians, the ILC-UK developed the following recommendations:
- Policy-makers should take a more holistic approach to designing interventions that integrate health, care and housing solutions.
- Employers to ensure that they find ways to provide flexible working to ensure that caring responsibilities do not pull people out of the workforce early.
- The Government should introduce a care voucher scheme for adults, similar to childcare vouchers, which would allow people of all ages to buy care vouchers to support the needs of older adults. This may help older carers of centenarians stay in the workplace longer.
- Health and Social Care providers should invest in ways of increasing the accessibility and appeal of social or interest groups to centenarians.
- Developers should plan for growing numbers of centenarians through ensuring that housing and neighbourhoods are better designed and/or adequately adapted to meet the needs of a growing centenarian population.
- Energy companies to ensure that their oldest customers access the best deals.
(1) DWP (2010) Number of future centenarians, http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2010/Centenarians.pdf
(2) Please see main report for full details of the sources used for this blog, http://ilcuk.org.uk/record.jsp?type=publication&ID=112
(3) ONS (2011) Estimates of centenarians in the UK, http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/mortality-ageing/population-estimates-of-the-very-elderly/2010/index.html
(4) DWP (2010) Number of future centenarians, http://research.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd1/adhoc_analysis/2010/Centenarians.pdf