While many of us assume that the key to a long life is health and happiness, recent studies from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggest that reaching the 100-year mark is a complex blend of genetics, environment, optimism, and emotional wellbeing. Given that recent U.S. census data shows that centenarians make up approximately 0.2 percent of the American population (and in Japan it's even higher, though not without some controversy), it's undeniable that centenarians are becoming only more numerous in countries that have long life expectancies.
Despite increasing longevity, many countries still formally honor a 100th birthday. In the U.K., centenarians receive a telegram from the Queen on a 100th and 105th birthday, as well as each one that follows. Americans receive a letter from the President, and if desired, an announcement on The Today Show. Other countries that have similar centenarian recognition include Sweden, Japan, and Italy. The long-lived Irish are particularly lucky: 100th birthdays are celebrated with a 2,540 "centenarian bounty" and a congratulatory letter from the President.
However, it is France that holds the honor of being home to the most long-lived person recorded: Jeanne-Louise Calment, who lived to be 122 years old, was born in 1875 and died in 1997. She smoked until five years before her death, rode a bicycle until she was 100, and used to eat more than two pounds of chocolate per week.
Photograph of Jeanne Louise-Calment from Gerontology Research Group
This article is from the September 19, 2012 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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