Ask A Scientist

Can you live longer than 100 years? What person lived the longest on Earth?

Asked by: Ashton Myers
School: Johnson City Middle School
Grade: 6
Teacher: Michelle Lehr
Hobbies/Interests: Being outside, video games, TV, football, baseball, dodgeball

 

Answer from Jessica Surdey

Instructor, Health and Wellness Studies

Research area: Stress, identity, self-esteem
Interests/hobbies: Exercise and home renovation

People 80 years and older are actually the fastest growing portion of the world population! The oldest person that ever lived (and has been validated by documents) was Jeanne Louise Calment, a French woman who was 122 years and 164 days old when she died in August 1997. The oldest person in the world right now is Misao Okawa, a 116-year-old woman living in Japan.

The Gerontology Research Group at UCLA is a great resource for information on aging. This group of scientists and doctors is trying to figure out what qualities and characteristics people who live long lives have in common. Their research actively maintains a file of living supercentenarians (people 110 years and older). There are currently 76 supercentenarians on their worldwide list. The chance of living to 110 is currently 1 in 7 million, according to these researchers. So far there has not been a common trend in the lifestyle of the supercentenarians, only that close relatives of theirs also live long lives. Another interesting fact is that female supercentenarians outnumber male supercentenarians 10 to 1, and researchers do not understand why.

People who live to old age (80 to 100) do have some significant similarities in lifestyle. Researchers say about 70 percent of aging is related to a person’s health-related behaviors. Some of these healthy lifestyle factors are: avoiding smoking; daily physical activity; a supportive family and community; social interaction; and a healthy, plant-rich diet. Geography is another very interesting common factor in successful aging. There are places in the world where people live longer and healthier than national averages. Some of those areas are Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Loma Linda (California) and Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica). People who live in these areas also have similar healthy lifestyles, are physically active and have social communities.

The good news is that we can contribute to our successful aging through the way we live our lives. Exercise, eating healthy, managing stress, avoiding harmful toxins like smoking and having a strong social support network are lifestyle behaviors we can all adopt. Another factor in healthy aging is having a positive outlook and being optimistic — after all, age is nothing but a number!

With New Year’s around the corner, now is the time to adopt those healthy lifestyle behaviors. Here’s to 100!

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Last Updated: 9/25/14