Centenarians have been in the news a lot lately, as they carry the Olympic Torch, skydive on their birthdays, and kinda sorta take over Japan. National Centenarian’s Day, marked every year on September 22, encourages us to get to know our local, lovable centenarians and their amazing stories of life in the 20th and 21st centuries. Since 1970, the title of world’s oldest person has been held by a super-centenarian (age 110 and up), and after the title changed hands this summer, the new bearer is 145 years old! What will they call that – super-mega-centenarian? We still marvel at people who reach the century mark, but science says that by the year 2100, living to 100 will be commonplace. Are we ready for that? Not everyone can handle the super-senior lifestyle, but there are some people wearing the badge with grace and style.
Science thinks it’s discovered the secret to super-longevity among the world’s largest group of centenarians in the Cilento region of Italy. Apparently, these active and vibrant Italians show a low level of the peptide hormone Adrenomedullin in their blood, which correlates to “a well-functioning endothelial and microcirculatory system allowing good blood perfusion of organs and muscles.” What does this mean? Well, marathoners have the same high level of microcirculation of blood in their muscles and organs, which means these centenarians are enjoying more energy, strength and stamina than much younger people who don’t experience this rate of perfusion. The bottom line? Their bodies are behaving like much younger bodies.
Already, today’s kids and teenagers have a more than 50% chance of living past age 100. Once science cracks the code of microcirculation, and whatever other mysteries lie within, the rest of us will jump on the longevity track. What does the world look like when half of everyone makes it to 100, and beyond? Well, family, work, and financial security will all change – and the Today show will have to start celebrating ‘a century and a quarter’, or the whole show will be about centenarians.
But today’s centenarians are already showing us the way, like 101-year-old Willie Mae Jones visited the high-tech, high-speed Facebook campus in August to celebrate her 101st birthday. She took the tour of one of her great-granddaughters’ new workplace along with many members of her large family. Zuck wasn’t in town, but Willie Mae got to shoot the breeze with Sheryl Sandberg, of Lean In fame, and crossed the tour off her bucket list. No word from Willie Mae about what’s up next, but if you see her walking around Google’s campus, don’t be surprised!
Oh, and what about the soon-to-be-confirmed ‘world’s oldest human’? He’s 145-year-old Mbah Gotho, born in 1870, an Indonesian who has outlived all ten of his siblings, three of his children, and four wives. Mbah bought his burial plot when he was 122 years old, and says he feels comfortable with leaving his family behind, as his “grandchildren are all independent.” Mbah is a smoker who enjoys listening to the radio, and attributes his status as the longest-lived human in recorded history to patience. What does 145 look like? Watch a video of Mbah here.