NEW YORK (Reuters) - America’s centenarians are generally content and believe staying active is key to longevity, and some are even using social media and email to stay in touch with family and friends, a survey released on Thursday showed.
The poll that compared the attitudes and lifestyle of baby boomers to centenarians showed the country’s oldest citizens were more content than their younger counterparts and put more emphasis on eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep.
“We are seeing clear differences in the generations,” said Dr Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of the healthcare company UnitedHealthcare & Retirement.
Although genetics play a big part, Randall said multiple factors contribute to longevity, including a positive attitude.
“Reflecting fondly and confidently on the choices they’ve made throughout their lives helps the longest-living Americans maintain a sense of satisfaction and well-being that’s vital to healthy aging,” she explained.
Census Bureau figures show that in 2010 there were more than 53,000 centenarians in the United States, an increase of 65.8 percent since 1980. By 2050 their numbers are expected to hit 600,000.
The survey of 100 centenarians and 300 baby boomers commissioned by UnitedHealthcare showed half of the elderly would not change a thing in their life, compared to only 29 percent of boomers.
Ten percent of centenarians said they wish they had taken better care of themselves and focused more on relationships. Only 6 percent would have wanted to have more money, compared to 26 percent of baby boomers who said they regretted they had not saved more.
Equal numbers of both generations recognized the importance of keeping active and socially connected and the importance of family.
“Whether it is family, a faith-based organization or friends, feeling connected to others is very important to health and well being,” Randall explained.
In a sign of just how important social connections are, more than a third of the elderly said they had kept up a friendship for more than 75 years.
Although a landline is the most common way centenarians keep in touch, nearly half of both groups recognized that cellphones, email and text messages make it easier to stay connected.
Thirty nine percent of centenarians used social media, compared to 56 percent of boomers.
Randall said centenarians’ desire to keep up with technology is part of their positive attitude and shows it is never too late to learn.
Nearly half, 45 percent, of the elderly said they were most nostalgic about young adulthood.
When asked about the best thing about reaching 100, more than a third thought it was the ability to spend more time with their children and grandchildren, and 26 percent said it was the opportunity to spend more time traveling.
Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Cynthia Osterman