Are You Healthier Than a 100-Year-Old?

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There used to be this great game show on TV: "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?"

The premise of the show was to determine whether or not the average adult could answer questions based off of a typical elementary school learning curriculum. Contestants would attempt to correctly respond to ten questions. Along the way, the presumably well-educated adult could solicit the help of one of several pint-sized counterparts, dubbed, "classmates."

As a television program, it provided viewers with a slew of hilarious situations and forced dozens of adults to admit that they were, "not smarter than a fifth grader."

What does all of this have to do with being a caregiver?

Well, given the results of a nationwide survey, quite a lot, actually.

This survey took an in-depth look at the habits, preferences, and lifestyles of 100 centenarians (people age 100 and older) and measured them against 300 baby boomers (aged 50-55) to pinpoint the differences and similarities between each group.

Looking at the outcome of the "United HealthCare 100@100 Survey" report, may cause baby boomers to ask themselves a rather curious question: "Am I healthier than a Centenarian?"

To help you answer this question for yourself, try (honestly) answering the quiz questions below.

Centenarian Health Comparison

  1. Do you consistently eat a balanced diet complete with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates?
    The connection between sound nutritional choices and good health has been scientifically proven countless times, but this message appears to have had more of an impact on the most long-lived members of our society than on those we consider to be ‘middle-aged.' 80 percent of centenarians reported that they maintain a healthy diet almost daily, while only 68 percent of boomers were able to agree with that same statement.
  2. Do you get eight hours of sleep every night?
    Catching zs for the recommended seven or eight hours each night has been linked to many positive health outcomes such as: reduced levels of stress, better cardiovascular health, and a decreased risk for depression. Yet only 38 percent of boomers say they get those eight hours, compared to 70 percent of centenarians.
  3. How often do you laugh?
    If your answer is daily, then keep up the good work. The survey indicated that, while boomers do laugh more, most of the members of the 100-year-old club also reported appreciating the lighter side of life. 87 percent of boomers said they chuckled at least once a day versus 80 percent of centenarians.
  4. Do you exercise regularly?
    Though the majority of centenarians say that they exercise almost daily, boomers do have them beat—but only by a slim margin (59 percent of boomers versus 51 percent of centenarians). The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that adults try to get a minimum of about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week. This amount is thought to be sufficient to reap the numerous benefits attributed to regular physical activity, including: reduced cancer and type 2 diabetes risk, better cardiovascular health, stronger muscles and bones, and a longer lifespan.
  5. What do you do for exercise?
    Both age groups reported that physical health was the most important, yet most difficult, aspect of health to maintain as a person gets older. How do the oldest elders work out? Many cited walking (44 percent) and engaging in muscle strengthening exercises (41 percent) as their go-to methods of staying in shape. One curious finding in the realm of physical fitness was that more centenarians than boomers said that they supplemented their work-out regimes with mind/body/spirit activities such as Yoga, or Tai chi.
  6. Do you regularly communicate with friends and family?
    The same number (89 percent) of boomers and centenarians claimed that they engage in regular communication and with their family and friends, lending further credence to the connection between a strong social support group and good health.

So, what's the verdict? Are you really healthier than a 100-year-old?

Handling Obstacles to Healthy Habits

Time, energy, illness and money are often the most commonly cited barriers to leading a healthy lifestyle.

Interestingly, even though the elderly are sometimes viewed as being sicker, more tired, and more financially strained than their younger counterparts, the survey found that fewer centenarians than boomers said that their ailments or purse strings got in the way of them leading a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, only 15 percent of centenarians claimed that they were too tired to make good choices on how to be healthier—a figure not too much larger than the 10 percent of boomers who said the same thing.

Baby boomer caregivers are likely to face some significant obstacles when it comes to maintaining their physical, mental and spiritual well-being as they get older, particularly if they are members of the stressed-out Sandwich Generation.

The key is to look for ways to take advantage of the opportunities you do have. Learning how to Eat healthier, get better sleep, de-stress, squeeze exercise into a jam-packed day, and find emotional support can provide long-lasting benefits that may help you outlive double digits.

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2 Comments

Exactly right! I'm 93, and think I do most of the things recommended in your article. I love life, but I don't want to live if I can't enjoy it.
My 90 something year old parents are healthier than I am, and they still live independently in their own single family home, minus transportation.

I use to be a gym rat for many years but had to stop as my parents needed my time since they stopped driving. OMG I look so out of shape now :P

I use to do a lot of yard work and gardening. Loved it. Haven't touched the soil since my parents stopped driving 5 years ago. By the time I get home I am too draining from constant doctor appointments with my parents, or taking them shopping, haircuts, CPA, etc. I forgot to mention, I still have a career which means rescheduling my time to accommodate my parent's driving time.

Sleep? I can't remember the last time I had a full 6 or 7 hours of sleep. I lie awake worrying about my parents being in a non-elderly friendly house. They refuse to move some place earlier to manage. And the stress of having to say *no* so often to them when they ask for physical labor... sorry, that ship sailed, I can't do it any more. They refuse to hire/pay anyone to help.

I swear, my parents are going to outlive me.