GROB: Living to be 100 is no longer the exception
By James Grob, firstname.lastname@example.org
I’d give up anything I own to spend one more day with any one of my grandparents.
I realized a couple of days ago that it was my grandmother’s birthday. If she celebrated it, it was somewhere up in Heaven, because she died way back in 1981, when I was just 13 years old. She was born in 1902, and that’s 119 years ago, and no one lives that long, right?
The U.S. Census Bureau has been releasing some rather interesting statistics from the 2020 count, and they indicate that today’s grandchildren might get the chance to spend a lot more time with their grandparents than the children of previous generations.
There are a lot more centenarians — people 100 years old or older — than there used to be.
The Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that today, there are about 90,000 centenarians in the country, an increase from about 72,000 centenarians in 2014 and 50,000 in 2000.
In 20 years, the number of people who are 100 years or older has almost doubled. That growth is expected to continue, potentially reaching nearly 600,000 people in the U.S. by the middle of the 21st century.
Medical science, better nutrition, better preventative care and better health care technology all contribute to the increase. I do not know if they factored in the fact that a lot of these people are just tough, stubborn old bastards who refuse to die, but I would bet that also plays a part.
Let’s admit it. Older people alive today were made from tougher stuff than than we younger people are. Folks born 100 years ago saw the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. They sent a few guys up to walk on the moon. They survived polio and 100 other diseases, most recently COVID-19.
They’ve seen some things, and some stuff, and they wouldn’t recommend it.
My parents are both around 80 years old, and my in-laws are also in their 80s. When your parents reach that age, you start thinking about things you don’t like to think about. They’ve spent far more time on this Earth than what they have left to spend. They have life experiences that we can’t possibly imagine, and not enough time left to share them all with us.
I’m always aware of the fact that whenever I watch a ball game with my dad, or tell jokes with my mom, or have dinner with both of them — it might be the last time I ever do that.
Then I read those numbers. About 90,000 people 100 years or older. More than half a million of them in 30 years.
Maybe they’re going to be around longer than we think. Maybe a lot longer.
Won’t that be nice?
Like I said, I’d give up just about anything if it meant I could have one more day with any one my grandparents.
Maybe my kids won’t have to say that.
And maybe I’ll get to watch their kids get old.