Why more of us are living to 100

Woman gets a vaccine shot
Carol Robertson, 105, of St. Paul, gets her COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 4 at a HealthPartners Clinic in Woodbury, Minn. She shows a photo on a phone of herself at a younger age.
Courtesy of HealthPartners file

Americans are living longer today than ever before. In 1900, the average life expectancy in the United States was 47. Today, it’s close to 80 —  and living into your 90s is a realistic expectation for many people. Even living to 100 or more isn’t out of the question: There are an estimated 92,000 centenarians — a whopping 84 percent increase from the 50,000 centenarians alive in 2000.

What is science telling us about this growing group of the “super old”? Most of us know exercise, a healthy diet and other lifestyle choices are influential. But studies seem to say genes are pretty important, too. So is a more complete understanding of how to detect and treat dementia, both to prolong life and to help ensure those later years are quality time.

On Monday, MPR News host Kerri Miller talked to two researchers about what they’re learning about living to be 100. Do you have to win the genetic lottery to live an entire century? Or could research unlock the secret to living longer and living longer well? 


To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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