Canadians living longer than ever

An increasing life expectancy is creating more centenarians than ever before.

Canada’s population is aging fast – and it will get even older, according to the latest census numbers.

Nearly one of every three Canadians is a baby boomer, with the oldest of them more than 60 and the youngest no longer in their thirties. The country’s fastest growing demographic is the 55 – 64 age group. This represents 3.7 million people – a 28 per cent rise from five years ago.

The census also reports a record 4.3 million seniors – or 1 out of 7 Canadians. And the ranks of those 80 and over passed the 1-million mark for the first time between 2001 and 2006. This represents a 25 per cent increase from 2001.

The vast majority – more than two-thirds – of people over 80 are women.

The centenarian club
The number of people aged 100 or over also rose sharply. The number of centenarians jumped about 22 per cent from 2001 and 50 per cent from 1996. There are currently about 4,635 people over the age of 100 in the country, the report stated.

By 2031, it is estimated the country will have 14,000 people centenarians.

Will you live until 100?
Centenarians have some characteristics in common, according to the Boston University School of Medicine’s New England Centenarian Study.

• Few centenarians are obese. In the case of men, they are nearly always lean.
• A substantial smoking history is rare.
• Centenarians are better able to handle stress.
• Many (30 per cent) experience no significant changes in their thinking abilities, disproving the expectation by many that all centenarians would be demented.
• Many centenarian women gave birth after the age of 35 and even 40. A woman who naturally has a child after the age of 40 has a 4-times greater chance of living to 100 compared to women who do not. (Bearing a child in one’s forties may indicate that the woman’s reproductive system is aging slowly and that the rest of her body is as well.)
• At least 50 per cent of centenarians have first-degree relatives and/or grandparents who also achieve very old age, and many have exceptionally old siblings.
• Many of the children of centenarians (age range of 65 to 82 years) appear to be following in their parents’ footsteps with marked delays in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and overall mortality.

7 tips for aging well*
While good genes can help you live a longer life, a healthy lifestyle is also important, medical experts say. Here are 7 tips for healthy aging.

Eat well. A number of studies have shown that a healthy diet can help you live longer and better. Select foods that are nutrient dense, meaning they have lots of essential nutrients in proportion to their calories. These would include whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits and legumes.

Keep physically active. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. The benefits are many: weight control, improved blood circulation, increased muscle mass, greater flexibility, more endurance and improved balance.