Health experts say other factors in the rise of the number of 100-year-olds include safer workplaces — people aren’t working in as many dangerous jobs and medical advancements against once-deadly infections and other illnesses. One of the most significant factors is that fewer people are dying from heart disease — the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.
Jeremy Barron, medical director of the geriatric medicine outpatient office at Johns Hopkins, said treatment has improved so much that cancer is expected to eventually surpass heart disease as the leading killer of older people.
The trend also has consequences. An aging population puts added pressure on families, the health care system and other parts of society. Researchers and geriatrics specialists are working to better understand this impact.
The health conditions of centenarians also vary; some need extensive care and suffer from chronic conditions, while others live independently in their own homes or in retirement communities.
“I think the longevity explosion we are having is a double-edge sword,” said Carmel Roques, president and CEO of Keswick Multi-Care Center community for seniors. “We do everything we can to prolong people’s lives. But it also has a downside, which is lots and lots of older adults with chronic illnesses.”
Some of these people end up in nursing homes, but others wind up under the care of relatives, including sons and daughters who also are themselves elderly and dealing with declining health.
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