Becoming centenarians: Disease and functioning trajectories of older U.S. adults as they survive to 100

TitleBecoming centenarians: Disease and functioning trajectories of older U.S. adults as they survive to 100
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsAilshire, JA, Beltrán-Sánchez, H, Crimmins, EM
JournalThe Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
KeywordsHealth Conditions and Status, Longevity, Older Adults, Oldest adults

Background. Little is known about the health and functioning of individuals who become centenarians in the years prior to reaching age 100. We examined long-term trajectories of disease, disability, and cognitive function in a sample of U.S. centenarians to determine how their aging experience differs from their nonsurviving cohort counterparts, and if there is heterogeneity in the aging experience of centenarians. Methods. Data are from the 1993 2010 waves of the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study. Among those who had the potential to become centenarians, we identified 1,045 respondents who died before reaching age 100 and 96 who survived to their 100th birthday. Respondents, or their proxies, reported on diagnosis of six major diseases (hypertension, heart disease, lung disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes), limitations in activities of daily living, and cognitive function. Results. As they age to 100, centenarians are generally healthier than nonsurviving members of their cohort, and a number of individuals who become centenarians reach 100 with no self-reported diseases or functional impairments. About 23 of centenarians reached age 100 with no major chronic disease and approximately the same number had no disability (18 ). Over half (55 ) reached 100 without cognitive impairment. Disease and functioning trajectories of centenarians differ by sex, education, and marital status. Conclusions. While some centenarians have poor health and functioning upon reaching age 100, others are able to achieve exceptional longevity in relatively good health and without loss of functioning. This study underscores the importance of examining variation in the growing centenarian population.

Citation Key8294
PubMed ID25136001
PubMed Central IDPMC4311187