If there’s one thing that most kids tend to have in common, it’s this: They want to be older. Even though their parents tell them not to wish away their youth, they look forward to the day when they’ll be bigger and older and finally be able to do this or that.

It’s hard for most kids to imagine what it will be like to be 20 or 30, let alone 60 or 80. How old are your grandparents and their friends? Do you know anyone who has lived to be 100?

We call people who live to be 100 years old “centenarians.” Experts estimate that there are currently more than 70,000 centenarians living in the United States.

A few of those centenarians — about one in 1,000 — will live to be 110 years old or older. At that point, they’re called “supercentenarians.”

With improvements in nutrition, medicine and health care, people live longer today than they did many decades ago. For example, there are many more centenarians and supercentenarians living today than there were 50 or 100 years ago.

As people live longer and longer lives, many are fascinated with the ideas of longevity (living a long time) and life expectancy (how long people are expected to live, on average). Of course, people also have always been fascinated with the idea of finding a fountain of youth that would help them live forever.

Unfortunately, the fountain of youth is just a myth. The people who live to be supercentenarians aren’t getting any help from magic water!

There are many things we do to help us look young, including lotions, potions, body sculpting programs and procedures. But the things that have a big impact on actually living long go beyond our outer appearance.

A key to living long is to focus on living well. Pointers for helping us live well include:

Stay active and safe Physical exercise is important. Being active keeps your body flexible and less prone to accidents. Staying active also includes keeping your mind active. Be interested and engaged in activities you find meaningful and fulfilling, such as work, volunteering and hobbies.

Use common sense for being safe. You might fall if you walk on an icy sidewalk. Do simple things that keep you safe, like buckling that seat belt!

Get plenty of sleep
Sleep gives your body the chance to rest and rejuvenate. Usually that means between six and eight hours of sleep is needed each night in order for the cells in your body to heal and for you to wake up feeling refreshed.

Follow regular healthy habits
Following healthy habits is important. Flossing your teeth daily supports good dental health and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. Following healthy habits also means avoiding things proven to be unhealthy, such as smoking or consuming alcohol.

It’s also important to keep your body balanced in a regular rhythm for eating, exercise, work, play and sleep. Staying active contributes to maintaining physical balance. It also helps us deal with stress and maintain a healthy mental balance.

Eat well
Here’s another place where the word balance is important. Eating a balance of foods from each food group — especially fruits, vegetables and grains — is important for sustaining a healthy body.

Be happy
This means caring and being connected to others — family, friends, neighbors and your community. It also means doing things you enjoy. Make time for that hobby or a relaxing walk. Work a puzzle or play a game.

As more people live longer, certain groups, such as Guinness World Records, keep track of who holds the current record as oldest man or woman in the world. Only people whose age can be verified are eligible to hold the world record.

There are likely very old people in some remote parts of the world who may be the true record holders. But if their ages can’t be verified, they can’t hold the world record.

The longest verified human life span ever is that of Jeanne Calment of France. Born in Arles, France, in 1875, she died in 1997 at the age of 122 years, 164 days.

Today, the oldest living person is 115-year-old Besse Cooper of the United States. The oldest living man is 114-year-old Jiroemon Kimura of Japan. As you can see, Besse and Jiroemon have a ways to go to surpass Jeanne’s record!

Life expectancy has risen fairly steadily over the years, thanks to improvements in health care and nutrition. Today, men in the United States can expect to live to around 75, while women can expect to live to around 80.


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    • Happy Monday, 5A in Gibbons! Thanks for exploring today’s Wonder and for letting us know you liked the video! We really like your attitude about staying young at heart! We think WONDERing helps us all stay that way! :-)

      P.S. You can tell how old Wonderopolis is by the number of the Wonder of the Day®! Wonderopolis started with Wonder #1 and today’s Wonder is #442, so we are 442 days old! :-)

  1. We will stay young to us. But we will get older in our mothers and fathers heart. We will, not soon, be 20, 30, 60, 80. And all of the numbers in between. There will be no one to say we will not get to be those numbers. We will always be getting older and older to our mothers and fathers. But we will get older to us, but not that fast.

    • Thanks so much for visiting this Wonder of the Day® and for sharing your thoughts about growing older and staying young, Jenn! :-)

  2. Our Kindergarten class liked this video and we love Wonderopolis!
    Today is our teacher’s 55th birthday and we think this video was a perfect way to celebrate her birthday and keep her happy. ;)
    The kids say “We love Mrs. Fisher and we love Wonderopolis!”
    Thanks, guys!

    We’re all working to “reach the cookie jar!”

    • HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you, Mrs. Fisher! We hope you have a WONDERful 55th! Thank you for sharing such a special day (and a special comment) with everyone in Wonderopolis! :-)

  3. You will always be young at heart no matter how old you get! P.S. my birthday is in October 2012 and I will be 12, my golden birthday!

    • Well, happy early, early, early birthday, Paige! We’re super glad to count you as a Wonder Friend and we really enjoy your comments! :-)

  4. Thanks, I am the same person who wrote the thinking outside the box definition comment. Shout out to Bay Lane Middle School and our librarian, Mrs. Toni! Thanks for showing us this website, Mrs. Toni!

    • Thanks for another super comment, Paige! We think Mrs. Toni is WONDERful for sharing Wonderopolis with you and the other awesome students at Bay Lane Middle School! We hope you learn something new each time you visit! :-)

  5. We thought the video was good because it prepared us for our future. We wondered why women live longer than men? A few of us have relatives who have lived beyond 80!

    • We think it’s GREAT that you visited Wonderopolis today and learned some new facts about growing older, Mrs. Watson’s Class! Thank you for sharing that some of you have relatives who are octogenarians (that’s a fun word to say, isn’t it?)! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How old can you grow?
  • Who is the oldest person who has ever lived?
  • What is life expectancy?

Wonder Gallery

children of different sizes_shutterstock_68513578Vimeo Video

Try It Out

How old is the oldest person you know? Do you have relatives or neighbors who are close to 80? How about older than 80? Older people often have rich stories and experiences to share.

Grab a parent, and together visit and talk with your elders. Ask about some of the changes they have experienced.

What was school like when they were young? Are there things they did that are similar to things you like doing, like riding a bike?

What are some things they did that were very different from today? What do they like best now? What do they miss most from their past?

We’re interested in finding out what you learned, so email us or share on Facebook what you found most interesting about the person you interviewed.


Still Wondering

Use Illuminations’ Analyzing Changes in Heights as a Function of Age lesson to explore how changes in children’s ages relate to changes in their heights.


Wonder Categories/Tags


expectancy  grow  life  longevity  old  span 

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