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Founded in 1989 by Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.
Centenarian Expert and Older Adults Advocate

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Getting Ready for Your 100th
By Don Oldenburg

Excerpts from the August 10, 1999, Washington Post story:

If you thought retirement planning is hard, you ain't seen nothing yet. Wait until you get a glimpse of "centenarian planning." Oooompf! Better pull up a rocking chair.

The good news is that centenarian planning isn't for everyone. In fact, the odds still are pretty good it's not for you. The bad news is that if you are one of the vast majority of adults for whom centenarian planning won't matter, the reason is . . . do you need this spelled out? You won't live long enough.

On the other hand, population and medical experts report that, thanks largely to remarkable progress in medicine, health and education, one undeniable trend in aging today is that more of us than ever are living past the brittle old age of 100. And the number of joint-aching centenarians (100 years and older) is expected to continue increasing dramatically over the next 50 years, so much so that the 1998 United Nations population estimates and projections for the first time added numbers worldwide for what it calls "the oldest-old" -- people 80 years and older.

…The number of U.S. centenarians today is estimated at about 70,000, and is expected to increase more rapidly than worldwide rates over the next 50 years. All of which brings to mind an image of a 100-year-old Willard Scott on some future "Today" show sending out birthday greetings on any given morning to dozens and dozens of centenarians.

…After 14 years of studying centenarians, Lynn Peters Adler has come to recognize what she calls the "Centenarian Spirit," which includes factors she believes are important to the longevity of these remarkable elders.

"These are things that everyone can start developing," says the founder of the National Centenarian Awareness Project, and author of the 1995 book "Centenarians: The Bonus Years" (1995, Health, $25), mentioning a combination of a positive yet realistic attitude, a love of life, a continued involvement with others, and a strong spiritual or religious belief.

An extended life span, says Adler, also requires personal courage and self-determination. "That includes the willingness to use medical interventions when necessary," she says. "People have had mastectomies in their eighties or nineties and still live to 100. But they never think they won't get through it."

The most important characteristic? "A remarkable ability to renegotiate life at every turn, to accept the inevitable losses and changes that come with aging and not let it stop them," says Adler, mentioning devastations of living a long life such as losing one's spouse, illness, even losing one's children. "Centenarians are not quitters. In their approach to life, when things go wrong, they roll with the punches and they do go on.

"We need to learn to accept those changes, and make plans for how we're going to handle them when they happen to us -- so we can keep on going. Because the only secret to living to 100 is surviving your seventies, eighties and nineties. And enjoying it -- because what's the point of living to 100 if your aren't going to enjoy it?"

The New York Times drops in on Lynn Adler's
Centenarian Party. Click here.

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