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A growing number of Americans are living to age 100. Nationwide, the centenarian population has grown 65.8 percent over the past three decades, from 32,194 people who were age 100 or older in 1980 to 53,364 centenarians in 2010, according to new Census Bureau data. In contrast, the total population has increased 36.3 percent over the same time period.
Many centenarians have certain living circumstances in common:
City living. A large majority of the oldest U.S. citizens live in urban areas. "As age increases, the percentage living in urban areas also increases," says Amy Symens Smith, chief of the age and special populations branch at the Census Bureau. Some 85.7 percent of centenarians lived in urban areas in 2010, compared with 84.2 percent of those in their 90s, 81.5 percent of those in their 80s, and 76.6 percent of those in their 70s.
"Living in the city, you have a lot more mental stimulation and the symphony and better doctors and hospitals and more social networking," says Gary Small, a professor on aging and director of the UCLA Longevity Center in Los Angeles, who is not affiliated with the Census Bureau report."There are more resources, and there is better transportation."
Located in the Northeast or Midwest. Although states with the largest populations generally have the most centenarians, the Northeast and Midwest have proportions of centenarians that are higher than the national average of 1.73 per 10,000 people, while the West and South have below-average proportions of centenarians.
"There's a lot of stuff going on in local areas, including access to medical care, diet, exercise, the culture, risk-taking, and more smoking," says Linda Waite, a sociology professor and director of the Center on Aging at the University of Chicago. "People in the Northeast tend to be more highly educated, and education is associated with a longer life expectancy." North Dakota is the only state with more than 3 centenarians for every 10,000 people in the state. Other states where centenarians make up a relatively large portion of the population include South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska. Three western states have less than one centenarian for every 10,000 people: Alaska, Utah, and Nevada.
The proportion of centenarians in the United States is smaller than that of many other developed countries. For example, for every 10,000 people, there are 1.92 centenarians in Sweden, 1.95 in the United Kingdom, and 2.70 in France. And Japan has 3.43 centenarians per 10,000 people, beating even our longest-lived state, North Dakota, which has 3.2 centenarians per 10,000 people.
Here’s a look at the states where people are the most likely to celebrate their 100th birthday:
North Dakota. Although North Dakota is home to only 221 centenarians, they make up 0.032 percent of the population in this sparsely populated state, the biggest proportion of any state. North Dakota is the only state with more than three centenarians for every 10,000 people.
South Dakota. People age 100 and older make up 0.03 percent of the population in neighboring South Dakota. The state had 240 centenarians in 2010, according to new Census Bureau data.
Iowa. In Iowa, 0.028 percent of residents have reached age 100. The state had 846 centenarians, according to the most recent Census.
Nebraska. There were 501 Nebraska centenarians in 2010, which accounts for about 0.027 percent of the state’s population.
Connecticut. In Connecticut, 930 people had reached their 100th birthday in 2010. Some 0.026 percent of the population can claim to have three digits in their age.
New York. New York state has 4,605 centenarians, which is second only to California (5,921 centenarians). But a much larger proportion of New York’s population is age 100 or older (0.024 percent), compared with California (0.016 percent).
Rhode Island. Some 0.024 percent of Rhode Island’s residents are age 100 and older. This small state has 247 centenarians, and could have more in the decades to come. Rhode Island is also among the states with the highest percentages of people in their 80s.
Massachusetts. There are 1,520 people age 100 and older in Massachusetts, which accounts for 0.023 percent of the population. And 50,258 Massachusetts residents are in their 90s.
Minnesota. In 2010, there were 1,211 Minnesota residents who had reached age 100. That’s about 0.023 percent of Minnesota’s over-5.3 million population.
Hawaii. The islands of Hawaii were home to about 1.4 million people in 2010, and 306 of them were age 100 or older.