We baby boomers think we'll live forever. Data now suggests we might just be right.
While dredging the web recently for new ways to feel out of touch, I was shocked to learn there are 44% more Americans 100 years or older than there were 15 years ago. I'm talking about those who are still alive — the number of dead centenarians is actually much higher, and rising.
True, this might be one of those hoax news stories naïve people keep posting as fact on Facebook. But since McKnight's reported it, and the folks who told them seem very trustworthy — federal health officials, that is — I'm choosing to blindly believe.
The report was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is in itself odd and troubling. It's well known that here in America we view mortality as a pesky infirmity to be either cured or denied, a problem eloquently confronted by write-in presidential candidate (I can dream, can't I?) Atul Gawande in his masterful book. But should we really unleash the CDC on it?
These are the get-your-flu-shot people, the Chipotle-is-going-to-kill-you people, the federal-agents-in-hazmat-suits-wrapping-your-house-in-plastic people. Now their mission includes stopping the elderly before they spread? If old age is a disease to be controlled, like mononucleosis and Trump, I fear the herd will decrease fast and soon.
Anyway, back to the data. Naturally, most of the 72,000 Americans age 100 and older are women — more than 80%. This makes perfect sense, as women are better than us men in every way, and should always get priority seating in either a lifeboat or a second century.
But those of us not quite of that prestigious vintage should definitely keep preparing for the exciting, if a little frightening, long-term care business implications, because the increase is striking. Only 50,281 of them existed in the year 2000, and a paltry 15,000 in 1980. And given the music from the 80s, which included Night Ranger, Wham, Rick Astley and White Snake, it's surprising any of them lived through it at all.
The point is that centenarians are multiplying at a frightening rate, and we should be ready. In the words of that adorable little girl in Poltergeist, “They're here.“
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.