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Centenarians: Keys to Longevity

2.0 Contact Hours
Target Audience: Nurses, healthcare professionals, and interested individuals
Purpose/Goal: The outcome of this course is for the learner to describe the epidemiology and psychosocial dynamics of centenarians, the genetic factors that contribute to longevity, and the nine lessons learned from the Blue Zones.
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Living to be 100 years old was once considered a rare occurrence, but with advancements in medicine and lifestyle changes, living to be 100 is not so improbable today. As a group, there are more centenarians worldwide than ever before, with the largest concentration found in America. Five places have been identified worldwide where people live the longest, healthiest lives. These “Blue Zones™” where people reach 100 years of age at significantly higher rates include the Barbagia region of Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, the Adventist community of Loma Linda in California, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, and the island of Ikaria in Greece. The people living in these places have achieved longevity through different paths and different cultures.

Upon completion of the course, you will be able to do the following:

  • Describe the epidemiology of centenarians.
  • Examine genetic and environmental factors that contribute to longevity.
  • Discuss the importance of telomeres and aging.
  • Describe the psychosocial dynamics of centenarians.
  • Describe the low incidence of dementia in centenarians.
  • Discuss the lessons learned from the Blue Zones of Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece.
  • Identify factors that have contributed to the avoidance of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes in the Blue Zones.
  • Examine nine lessons learned from the Blue Zones.

At the time of this writing in 2016, the average life expectancy in the United States is over 78 years, yet more than 70,000 Americans have reached their 100th birthdays and beyond. Worldwide, there are over 450,000 individuals over 100 years of age (Goodman, 2015).

The United States has the largest known number of centenarians of any nation, and the number has nearly doubled in the period from 1983 to 2016. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the centenarian population will at least double again by 2020. The 2010 census counted 53,364 centenarians, defined as people 100 years and over; that was a 5.8% increase from 2000, when 50,454 people were at least 100 years old. The increase was not just a byproduct of the nation’s growing population. In 1990, about 15 of every 100,000 Americans reached 100 years of age; in 2010, the number was more than 23 per 100,000.

Advances in medical care and technology, genetics, and healthier lifestyles are some of the reasons for increased longevity in the United States, where the “oldest old” are mentally and physically active, living much healthier lives than their predecessors, and still living independently. Personality traits and other characteristics may also play a role: the U.S. Census Bureau (2010) reports that centenarians tend to be positive but realistic, spiritual or religious, and resilient; they also love life and have a sense of humor.

Consider these additional facts about centenarians (Administration on Aging, 2014; Boston University Medical Center, 2012; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010):

  • Centenarians can be found all over the world.
  • Approximately 25% live alone.
  • Centenarians are the fastest-growing segment of the population in terms of age.
  • Females outnumber males as a percentage of the total centenarian population.
  • The oldest living person on record is Madame Jeanne Calment, who died at the age of 122 years in August 1997. She attributed her longevity to port wine, olive oil, and a sense of humor.
  • Centenarians are a diverse group of individuals with varied backgrounds, incomes, and occupations and a common belief that hard work is important to health.
  • Most centenarians have a strong sense of individualism, a strong sense of self, the ability to cope effectively with losses, an interest in life, a sense of fun, and an optimistic attitude.

Complete the course post exam (CE Test) with a score of 80% or greater. Complete all fields of the course evaluation form. Certificate of Completion is provided once the course post exam is passed per criteria above.

  • American Board of Managed Care Nursing
  • ANCC - American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • AOTA - American Occupational Therapy Association
  • ASWB - Association of Social Work Boards
  • California Board of Behavioral Sciences
  • California Board of Registered Nursing
  • California Department of Health, Aid, and Technician Certification Section
  • District of Columbia Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing
  • Florida Board of Nursing - Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Florida Board of Respiratory Care
  • Florida Council of Dietetics and Nutrition
  • Florida Council of Licensed Midwifery
  • NAADAC - The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors
  • NCBTMB -National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork
  • Florida Board of Massage Therapists


Practice Level:


Content Focus:

Domain of OT

Course Expires:

May 30, 2019

  • Cyndie Koopsen, RN, BSN, MBA, HNB-BC, RN-BC, HWNC-BC
  • Caroline Young, MPH
Jurisdictional Requirements:

Continuing education (CE) licensing requirements vary by jurisdiction, are not well defined, and may change. These CE requirements may vary in terms of the number of hours required to the types of courses that must be taken. ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC recommends you contact your licensing board or accrediting organization for the latest continuing education requirements of your state or territory. Compliance with CE requirements is the responsibility of the individual health care provider. Health care providers must understand the CE requirements in their jurisdictions, and be sure they are up-to-date on any rule changes that affect their license. For further information, please see our Accreditation Information.

Accommodations for Disabilities:

Every effort will be made to accommodate your special needs. To request accommodations, please contact us.

Conflicts of Interest and Relevant Financial Relationships:

The authors/planning committee members have no conflicts of interests or relevant financial relationships to declare relevant to this activity.

Commercial Support:

No commercial support has been received for this activity.

Non-endorsement of products:

Accreditation refers to recognition of continuing nursing education only and does not imply ALLEGRA Learning Solutions, LLC approval or endorsement of any commercial product.

Off-label Use of Products:

None of the authors intend to discuss off-label uses of drugs, mechanical devices, biologics, or diagnostics not approved by the FDA for use in the United States.