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National Center of Health Statistics reports growth in 100 year olds; Newberg has feted many of late

GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - Newberg has seen a rash of residents turning 100 years old in the past six months, all of them complete with memories of how things were in the early 1900s.

It is hard to determine exactly how many 100-year-olds there are in the Newberg area, but the advent of more centenarians is a phenomenon nationally as there are more Americans over the age of 100 than ever before.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by 2014 there were 72,197 Americans age 100 or older, compared to 50,281 in the year 2000. The study was released in January by the National Center for Health Statistics.

"It looks like the 100 and over population is living longer … but I don't know exactly what caused that," researcher Jiaquan Xu said.

He explained in the report that it is difficult to gather numbers before the year 2000 because the age reported on death certificates was often inaccurate.

The study determined that the primary reason more people are living to surpass 100 is that death rates are dropping for Americans of all ages. There has also been a decrease in heart disease, which can contribute to the declines in the amount of deaths.

"Even centenarians are living longer," Xu said.

This makes way for "supercentenarians," folks who have attained the age of 110 and older. According to the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks supercentenarians and validates longevity claims, as of May 1 there were six verified living American supercentenarians. Of the 36 living supercentenarians in the world, 35 of them are female. Delphine Gibson, born on Aug. 17, 1903, is 114 and the oldest American.

Inevitably, a person who lives past 100 gets asked what their secret is to longevity.

Newberg resident Mildred Harris celebrated her birthday in March and chalks up her longevity to playing golf and eating healthy.

Ingrid Muller, a Newberg resident who also turned 100 in March, says she drank a glass of wine a day to keep her young.

What finally gets them?

The top five causes of death among centenarians in 2014 were heart disease, complications from Alzheimer's, stroke, cancer, influenza and pneumonia.

The problem is that while the 100-year-olds are hardy, healthy and wise, cognitive functions such as memory, learning and reasoning decline. The Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center conducted a study and found that, "Most people that live to be in their 80s will have some combination of neuro pathologies in the brain" that lead to cognitive decline in old age.

"As life expectancy increases, however, diseases and conditions that threaten the health of older people remain a concern," National Institute on Aging state on their website. "The challenge for the 21st century will be to make these added years as healthy and productive as possible."

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