Annual Survey Finds More Than Half of 100-Year-Olds Are Exercising Nearly Every Day

A new survey finds the nation’s centenarians are just as active –

physically and socially – as boomers half their age. More than half of

the 100 centenarians polled in UnitedHealthcare’s seventh annual 100@100

survey say they exercise almost every day.

Nearly 45 percent cite walking as their favorite physical activity, yet

nearly as many centenarians (40 percent) do exercises to strengthen

their muscles. The survey finds that 100-year-olds also get creative

with their workouts: 11 percent practice yoga, Tai Chi or another form

of mind/body/spirit activity; 8 percent ride a bike regularly; 5 percent

jog; and 2 percent engage in sports like baseball, basketball, soccer or


This year’s UnitedHealthcare 100@100 survey polled baby boomers in their

early 50s in addition to centenarians to forecast the future of

America’s rapidly expanding senior population and to determine how

today’s oldest Americans can guide boomers’ strategies for successful

aging. UnitedHealthcare serves nearly 12,000 of the estimated 72,000

centenarians nationwide through its portfolio of Medicare plans. The

U.S. Census bureau projects the centenarian population will swell more

than eight-fold to more than 600,000 by 2050.

If they hope to follow in the footsteps of the surveyed centenarians and

make it to the century mark, boomers should remember to maintain their

social circles and sense of humor. Centenarians are just as likely as

boomers to talk with a friend or family member almost every day (89

percent each), and they are nearly as likely to attend a social event

(26 percent of boomers vs. 24 percent of centenarians) and find

something amusing enough to laugh or giggle (87 percent of boomers vs.

80 percent of centenarians) nearly every day.

“Some people have the perception that the oldest members of our society

sit alone in a nursing home all day, but this year’s UnitedHealthcare

100@100 survey findings suggest that getting older doesn’t necessarily

mean becoming less socially active,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief

medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, the nation’s

largest business dedicated to the health and well-being needs of seniors

and other Medicare beneficiaries. “While genetics and maintaining a

healthy body are important factors in living well into the 100s, this

year’s survey participants have shown that staying socially engaged is

just as important to healthy aging.”

So what can boomers look forward to as they progress toward their 100th

birthday? A healthier diet and more rest – 100-year-olds are

outperforming boomers on consistently eating nutritiously balanced meals

(81 percent vs. 68 percent) and getting eight hours or more of sleep per

night (71 percent vs. 38 percent).

Centenarians and Boomers Agree: Staying Fit Is

Important, But It’s Not Easy
Both centenarians and

boomers say it is more important to maintain physical health than mental

and emotional health as they age, yet both groups agree it is also the

most difficult to maintain. Centenarians and boomers rank physical

health above mental health (40 percent vs. 32 percent of centenarians,

and 50 percent vs. 24 percent of boomers) and emotional health (10

percent of centenarians, 9 percent of boomers) as the most important to

maintain as they age.

When asked about activities they do to keep their minds healthy,

centenarians and boomers appear to be on the same page. These activities

include communicating regularly with friends, family and community

members (88 percent of boomers, 82 percent of centenarians), reading (87

percent of boomers, 66 percent of centenarians), and exercising or

staying physically active (74 percent of boomers, 65 percent of


The survey also found that both groups believe that lifestyle choices

have a greater impact on longevity than heredity, but the gap is much

narrower among centenarians (centenarians: 43 percent lifestyle/36

percent heredity; boomers: 60 percent lifestyle/28 percent heredity).

Internet Access Doubles Among 100-Year-Olds,

But They Say the Internet as We Know it Won’t Last

number of centenarians with Internet access has nearly doubled since

last year’s survey: up to 25 percent from 13 percent in 2011. But just

because they’re adopting it in greater numbers does not mean they

believe it will be around forever. Sixty-two percent of centenarians and

80 percent of boomers think the Internet will be obsolete in less than

25 years, replaced by a new and better system. About one-third of each

group gives the Internet a 10-year lifespan (33 percent of boomers, 31

percent of centenarians).

A majority of connected centenarians (56 percent) say they have used the

Internet to view or share photos with family and friends. Centenarians

with Internet access have also used the Internet to send and receive

email (48 percent) and to search for information (44 percent), and they

are almost as likely as boomers to have used an online dating service (6

percent of boomers vs. 4 percent of centenarians).

Nearly one in 10 centenarians (9 percent) has watched a video on

YouTube. Even more have listened to music on an iPod or similar device

or watched a TV program on a digital video recorder (12 percent each).

When it comes to social media, a majority of boomers have used Facebook

(58 percent), but only 11 percent have used Twitter. Centenarians’

social lives are lived mostly offline: only 3 percent have used

Facebook, and only one of the 100 centenarians surveyed has used Twitter.

Betty White and “Gone with the Wind”: Popular

As Ever
Given the opportunity to invite a list of 14

famous people to a family dinner, centenarians’ most popular pick for

the third year in a row was Betty White (65 percent), followed by a tie

between George W. Bush and President Barack Obama (56 percent each).

Politicians, however, did not crack the top three invitees for boomers,

who chose Betty White (78 percent), Tom Hanks (75 percent) and Paul

McCartney (70 percent).

If dinner were to be followed by a movie, half of centenarians would

pick “Gone with the Wind,” calling it the greatest movie from the past

100 years. Boomers’ top pick is a movie that is only seven years newer:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (33 percent).

2012 Elections: Strong Turnout Expected From

100-Year-Olds and Boomers Alike
Almost three-quarters of

the 100 centenarians polled said they are heading to the polls in

November. Both centenarians and boomers are fairly well aligned

regarding their priorities for selecting the next president. Deemed most

important are good guardianship of the economy (85 percent of boomers,

76 percent of centenarians), protecting the safety and security of the

country by using the military (80 percent of boomers, 77 percent of

centenarians), strong moral character (73 percent for both groups), and

improving health care and education (72 percent of boomers, 70 percent

of centenarians).

Some of the top issues driving the political dialogue are also top of

mind for centenarians. More than a quarter (28 percent) say developments

in green energy will have the greatest impact in the next 100 years, and

nearly half (49 percent) do not think the eligibility age for Medicare

and Social Security should be raised, though the majority (54 percent)

believes it will be.

For complete survey results, visit the Newsroom on

About the Survey
GfK Roper

interviewed 100 centenarians (individuals turning 100 this year or

older) and 300 boomers (ages 50-55) by telephone from April 16 to May 2,

2012. Centenarians were interviewed using a list of pre-identified

respondents in that age category. Boomers were selected by a random

dialing sample derived from probability methods, with pre-identified age

ranges. The centenarian sample is not weighted, as population targets

for this group are not available. The sample of boomers was weighted to

reflect their demographics in the U.S. population for this age range.

The margin of sampling error for boomers is plus or minus 6.7 percentage

points for a result of 50 percent at the 95 percent confidence level,

for results based on the entire sample of boomers. The margin of

sampling error is higher and varies for results based on subsamples.

About UnitedHealthcare

is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by

simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and

wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care

providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit

programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid

beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians

and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare

serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and

well-being company.