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The Mature Perspective
Living Longer, Happier In 21st Century

Life’s happy hour doesn’t occur until we are getting on in years, peaking at about age 70, according to one of the largest studies of its kind. The research was conducted by Harvard Medical School and its affiliate, McLean Hospital and the results of the analysis were reported recently and published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

The healthier regime of senior citizens these days likely has a lot to do with the fact that it’s getting easier to grow old. After all, the trend of adopting healthier lifestyles combined with the fast-paced advancements in medicine go a long way toward providing us with reason to be happy.

Dr. Laura Germine, senior author of the research report, told reporters the study saw “declines in many visual perceptual abilities as we get older, but here we did not see such declines in the perception of happiness. These findings fit well with other research showing that older adults tend to have more positive emotions and a positive outlook.”

The fact is, people are living longer than ever before. The Centenarian keeps track of longevity statistics and reports that the country with the most 100-year-olds is the U.S. It is estimated that there are currently more than 72,000 centenarians in America. And, the Web site predicts, “If the population of centenarians continues to increase at its current rate of expansion there could be close to 1 million people of 100 years of age or more by 2050 residing in the US.”

UC Berkeley professor Kenneth Wachter, a leading authority in the field of demographics, says that the extent to which human beings can live is “yet in sight. Not only do we see mortality rates that stop getting worse with age, we see them getting slightly better over time.”

The Boston University School of Medicine boasts that it has been conducting the world’s largest and most comprehensive study of centenarians. It is called the New England Centenarian Study (NECS) and when it was established one person out of 10,000 living in the U.S. was at least 100 years of age. Its most recent calculations puts the number of centenarians at one out of 5,000. And, the NECS reports that the number of American supercentenarians is growing as well.

Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the study, says that health related behavior – what we eat, how we exercise, etc. – is responsible for 70 percent of our aging process, with genetics accounting for 30 percent. But, he says, for supercentenarians, it’s 70 percent genetic.

The NCES offers us a chance to calculate our own longevity based on 40 questions about our health and that of family members. To paraphrase Star Trek’s very own Vulcan, Mr. Spock, “live long and be happy.”


Dan Weber is President of The Association of Mature American Citizens (, a senior advocacy organization that takes its marching orders from its members. They act and speak on members’ behalf, protecting their interests and offering a practical insight on how to best solve the problems they face today.