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Centenarians No Longer a Curiosity

The latest U.S. census revealed that nearly 80,000 centenarians -- people 100 years old and older -- are alive and, in many cases, quite well across the country, thanks to ever-improving nutrition, fitness, and health care.

May is "Older Americans Month" in the United States -- an apt time to examine the findings of a survey by Evercare, a health-care provider to the elderly and those with long-term illnesses or disabilities. The company asked questions of 100 of the more than 1,000 centenarians it has enrolled.

Not all are spry and mentally nimble, of course. But many who are attribute their vigor not to good genes or improvements in medical care, but to faith in God and an old-fashioned positive outlook. "If you are happy you can live longer, I think," reported Edith Jansky of Massachusetts.

Others said it was important to stay in touch with the world, not shrink from it. "I want my MTV [music videos on television]," said one centenarian. Nearly a quarter of the 1,000 old, old folks surveyed have purchased a music CD, and one in seven has played video games.

Many of the very old who were surveyed said it was no coincidence that they quit smoking long ago -- 41 years ago on average!

More centenarians said that given a choice, they'd take a better memory over fewer aches and pains. Most reported pleasant memories from their marriages and childrearing. But one old fellow said his favorite experience was learning to fly at age 76.

"Let me tell you about the very rich," novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in 1926. "They are different from you and me." The same could have been said of the very old back then, but not so much any more.

Complete findings of the "Evercare 100 @ 100 Survey" can be found online at

This is one of a regular series of reports on life in the U.S. by Ted Landphair. For more, visit the Only in America page at