A new survey finds the nations centenarians are just as active
physically and socially as boomers half their age. More than half of
the 100 centenarians polled in UnitedHealthcares 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 years UnitedHealthcare 100@100 survey polled baby boomers in their
early 50s in addition to centenarians to forecast the future of
Americas rapidly expanding senior population and to determine how
todays 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 years UnitedHealthcare
100@100 survey findings suggest that getting older doesnt necessarily
mean becoming less socially active, said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief
medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, the nations
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
years 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 Its 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 Wont Last
number of centenarians with Internet access has nearly doubled since
last years survey: up to 25 percent from 13 percent in 2011. But just
because theyre 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
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:
Its 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
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 www.UnitedHealthGroup.com.
About the Survey
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.
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