Do you want to live to be 100? If you answered "no" for health or financial reasons, you might be in for a pleasant surprise. Centenarians are the fastest growing age group in the country, and are expected to multiply seven-fold over the next 30 years, so like it or not, many more of us will live to be 100.
Most centenarians are not simply 85-year olds with an extra 15 years of decay and deterioration; rather, they tend to be free of all chronic and degenerative diseases, until the just before their death. Over half of American centenarians live either on their own or with family, and over 90% of them maintained good physical and mental health into at least their 90s.
Regarding health, most gerontologists believe that only about 30% of longevity is accounted for by genetics. The rest is environmental: diet, exercise, smoking habits, drinking habits, drug habits, exposure to carcinogens, exposure to radiation (including sun), etc, which means that if you take your health seriously, there's a strong chance you'll live a lot longer than you expected.
But what of the costs of living longer than you expect? The raw economic data on centenarians is pretty bleak; consider that over two-thirds of them live below the poverty line. Further, in a recent interview-based survey of centenarians, interviewers concluded that 37% of them have no money for any luxuries, and 44% have no financial reserves whatsoever. Amazingly, however, the centenarians themselves saw things completely differently: 76% of them say they have enough money to buy extras, and a whopping 95% of them say they have enough money for their needs. Only about a fifth of centenarians need any financial help from friends or family to pay their rental lease, mortgage, or other regular bills.
One of the most critical aspects of financial, physical and emotional well-being for old (and we do mean old) Americans is simply remaining fit, healthy and functional, which can be accomplished through the lifestyle choices mentioned above, but also through remaining engaged. People who are socially active remain drastically healthier than those who don't go out of their way for social interaction, whether that comes from working, volunteering, or simply maintaining a vigorous social schedule of poker games, swing dancing, and scrabble night. Centenarians (and their children) are well-advised to sign a rental lease at senior living facilities with exceptionally active communities, both socially and physically, if they intend to lease or enter senior communities rather than living with family or on their own.
Interestingly, it seems almost all centenarians have low stress levels. Stress causes physical deterioration and brain cell deaths over time, leading to drastic and continual loss of health until death, and it appears that centenarians have survived as long as they have as a partial result of learning to maintain equanimity and freedom from stress. They have low neurosis levels, and while they watch their spending, they don't worry about money. They simply make sure they have enough money to pay their rental lease, their health care bills, and their food, and anything left over is simply icing on their 100-year old birthday cakes.