iPods, Texting at 100: How Centenarians Stay Hip

Eating Healtfullhy, Staying Active and Socially Connected Among Secrets of 100-Year-Olds

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

May 7, 2010 -- Americans turning 100 or older this year are making sound lifestyle choices, not just about health and exercise but by clinging to social networks and adapting to new technologies, a new survey indicates.

The fifth annual Evercare by United [email protected] Survey of 100 Americans turning 100 or older this year also finds that 80% of the older folks are communicating daily with a friend or family member, and 75% say they eat nutritionally balanced meals.

The poll shows many are staying active physically and mentally, even to the extent of embracing iPods and text messaging.

It also finds that three out of 10 feel the current economic slump is more severe than the Great Depression, and that most frown on immorality.

For instance, 57% of those polled said Tiger Woods wouldn't be invited to share a meal. Just two years ago, before word of Woods' alleged bedroom escapades hit the news, the golfer came in second behind Bill Cosby as centenarians' top dinner guest choice.

Seniors Staying in Touch

Among the findings, the survey reports that:

  • 8% of centenarians say they have sent someone a text message or an instant message, compared to a mere 1% two years ago.
  • 12% say they have listened to music on an iPod or similar device, up from 4% three years ago.
  • 11% have used YouTube and 2% Facebook.
  • 5% have used TiVo to watch a TV program later.
  • 4% have used Google
  • 1% have used an online dating service.
  • 1% have used an "app" on an iPhone or similar device.

Also, the survey finds that 90% of centenarians feel that volunteering will create a stronger, healthier America, and 89% want to be remembered most as a good parent, more so than as a good spouse, friend, or employee.

"Lifestyle choices that are important to those surveyed are sleep, maintaining a healthy attitude, eating healthy, and even choosing organic foods," Mark Leenay, MD, UnitedHealthcare's senior vice president of medical management, tells WebMD. "Year in and year out, our survey shatters the common myth that once you hit a certain age, you lose touch with what's 'in', what's 'cool' in the latest technologies. On the contrary, survey respondents are using hip technology to help stay connected to the world around them."

About 84,000 centenarians are living in the U.S., and that number is projected to increase to 580,000 by 2040, Evercare says.

The 2010 survey also compares lifestyles and beliefs of centenarians with seniors graduating from college. More young people are expected to reach their 100th birthdays compared to their predecessors, but they also will face health challenges older people did not, such as an increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes.

Among other findings of the centenarian survey:

  • 57% chose Betty White as their top pick for dinner guest, compared to 55% for Bill Cosby, 54% for Bill Clinton, 44% for Michelle Obama, and 31% for Sarah Palin and Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House.
  • 35% of the centenarians say the recession has affected their ability to continue to live out their retirement/end-of-life plans.
  • 75% say they eat balanced meals daily, compared to 44% of seniors in college.
  • 41% of centenarians say they walk or hike at least once a week, 31% garden, 6% practice tai chi, yoga, or meditate, and 2% run.
  • 62% say they pray, meditate, or engage in some spiritual activity daily.
  • 20% say they do some type of volunteer work.

"The bottom line in longevity is consistent and clear," Leenay says in a news release. "Be active until you can't. Stay connected and engaged. Try new things and challenge yourself."

Most Were Ready to Reach 100

The results were based on interviews of 100 people aged 99 and higher.

Of those surveyed:

  • 74% felt prepared to reach the age of 100.
  • 47% feel lifestyle choices are the key to longevity.
  • 76% believe it is more important to maintain a healthy attitude than a healthy weight.
  • 32% eat organic food regularly.
  • 72% laugh or giggle regularly.
  • 75% get eight hours or more of sleep nightly.
  • 26% think researchers will find a cure for cancer.

Among college seniors surveyed:

  • 94% feel volunteering is a good idea for the country.
  • 69% believe the economic slump will affect their ability to find a job when they graduate.
  • 69% would invite Brad Pitt to dinner (43% of centenarians did not know who Pitt is).


Exercises for Seniors: Tips for Core, Balance, Stretching See Slideshow

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SOURCES: Complete Evercare [email protected] Survey.

News release, Evercare, UnitedHealthcare.

Mark Leenay, MD, senior vice president, UnitedHealthcare.

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