The number of centenarians hav increased exponentially in the last several decades. Japan reported that in 1990, 3,000 people were over the age of 100, and the oldest was 114. In 2003, just 13 years later, there were 44,000 people over the age of 100, but the oldest was still 114. There seems to be some natural mechanism within human biology that drops the chances of survival significantly at that age. Robert Young, a Gerontologist with the Guinness Book of World Records, points to data that shows the chance of dying between ages 110 and 113 are about 1 in 2. However, at the age of 114, that chance jumps to about 2 in 3. Since very few nations have more than 3 individuals over the age of 114, the likelihood of death are very high.
Medical advances may be able to increase healthspan, or the amount of time that we are able to stay active and healthy, both physically and mentally. In fact, many people are leading active lifestyles well into their 70’s and even 80’s now. However, 114 remains a very stubborn upper-limit. In fact, data charts have even started to change their shape. As we age, our survival rates tend to drop, gradually at younger years, and then more drastically in our 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. However, with improving healthspans, we tend to stay healthier longer, and live longer, and the rate does not drop as drastically. The result is that the ski-slope shape of longevity charts is now becoming more of a “cliff” effect, showing high rates of longevity through our elder years and then dropping precipitously around the 100’s.
Although this bodes well for health industries, as an aging population relies increasingly on them to stay healthier later into life, prolonging human life still remains a mystery past the magical number: 114.