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.
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.
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.