Since 1900, the number of people over the age of 100 has been growing rapidly. According to the United Nations Population Division, as of 2021, the number of people over the age of 100 worldwide exceeded 621,000. This number is expected to exceed one million by 2030.
When Josefa Maria’s da Conceicao didn’t want her cigarette that day, her family knew something had changed.
It was early 2022. Conceicao, who had been a farmer in Brazil for most of her life, had just celebrated her 120th birthday.
Cicera, one of Conceicao’s four surviving daughters (she had 22 children), said, “My mother smoked all her life. When she got older, we tried to talk her out of it, but she started threatening us, saying, ‘I’ll go and get my cigarettes.
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“THE OLDEST PERSON IN THE WORLD” NUN ANDRE
Her family says Conceicao is now less active than in previous years. Conceicao was ‘discovered’ a few years ago by a local television station and became famous as the ‘oldest woman in the world’.
Conceicao’s identity card shows her birth date as February 7, 1902. But she was not included in the Guinness Book of Records. The title of the oldest living person currently belongs to Lucile Randon, a 118-year-old French citizen. Randon is better known as ‘Sister Andre’.
The title of the oldest man is held by Juan Vicente Mora, a 113-year-old Venezuelan.
But Sister Andre may soon lose this record to someone else. Because in recent years, the number of people over the age of 100 has been increasing rapidly around the world.
MORE THAN 621 THOUSAND
According to the United Nations Population Division, as of 2021, the number of people over the age of 100 worldwide exceeded 621,000. This number is expected to exceed one million by 2030.
In 1990, only 92,000 people reached the age of 100. Even that was a huge number back then.
Humanity has come a long way in terms of life expectancy, thanks to advances that have given us better medicine, food and living conditions compared to those of our ancestors.
In 1960, when the UN started keeping records in this area, the life expectancy of the average person was 52 years.
Again, according to 2021 data, the ratio of people over the age of 100 to the world population is 0.008 percent.
Global life expectancy is 75.
This picture varies from country to country. However, the average life expectancy in Japan is 85, while in the Central African Republic it is only 54.
Older people are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases. “Living long may not necessarily mean living well,” says Prof. Lord, a cell biologist at the University of Birmingham.
According to Prof. Lord, a man spends an average of 16 years of his life with diseases ranging from diabetes to dementia. For women, it is 19 years.
THE SECRET OF 110-YEAR-OLDS
Reaching 110 is even harder.
According to a multi-year study by Boston University, only one in five million Americans reaches the age of 110.
In 2010, the number of 110-year-olds in the US was around 60-70. In 2017, this number increased to 150.
This age group naturally attracts the attention of scientists working on aging.
“These people are challenging what happens to many people at an advanced age. We still don’t know how this happens.”
The 110-year-olds are in relatively good health for their age.
For example, according to her family, Josefa Maria’s da Conceicao takes no daily medication. She can also eat red meat and sweets.
“I AM SURPRISED SHE HAS LIVED THIS LONG”
She can’t remember things, though, and her eyes are weak. Her 76-year-old daughter Cicera said, “Mom can’t walk like she used to. We have to carry her everywhere and change her diapers. But I am surprised that someone who smoked since childhood and did hard labor for decades can live this long.”
Josefa Maria’s da Conceica, as we just mentioned, smoked for most of her life. Her childhood was spent in poverty.
A 2011 study by the American Geriatrics Society of more than 400 95-year-old Jewish Americans revealed striking results.
About 60 percent of them were heavy smokers. Half had been overweight all their lives. Only 3 percent were vegetarians. Many did not even engage in light exercise.
“The first thing we should tell people who want to live that long is not to take longevity advice from people who are over 100 or 110,” says biogerontologist Prof. Richard Faragher of the University of Brighton:
“They are inherently exceptional. Because they are doing the complete opposite of what we know helps a person live longer.”
Scientists think genetics may play a big role in longevity.
People over 100 or 110 years old seem to be able to protect themselves against aging.
They are also more immune to the bad habits that send most of us to an early grave.
According to a 2020 study of Jewish Americans over the age of 100, they have a similar rate of bad genetic variants as the general population.
Queen Elizabeth II of England, who is 96 years old, traditionally sends letters to people who are over 100 years old.
The longest living person to date was a French citizen named Jeanne Calmet, who died in 1977 at the age of 122. Calmet is the only person known to have lived beyond the age of 120.
However, experts at the University of Washington believe that within this century humanity could reach 125 or even 130 years of age.
BBC World Service