The Significance of Planning Ahead in an Age of Longevity: The Science Behind Centenarians and the Importance of Estate Planning

November 3, 2023

With an increasing number of people crossing the century mark, a phenomenon that was once an exception has now become the norm. Today, centenarians are the fastest-growing demographic worldwide. Their numbers have doubled every decade since the 70s, bringing forth crucial questions. As life expectancies extend, the need to plan - not just for the inevitability of death but for the reality of living longer, including potential disabilities - has never been more pressing.

The Rise of the Centenarian

Historically, the mysteries of age and longevity have been topics of fascination. Ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle explored the concept of aging over two millennia ago. The intrigue of deciphering the secret formula for a long life has long been on humanity's mind. But, the real challenge lies in decoding the intricate dance between genetic predisposition and lifestyle choices.

A recent study published in GeroScience has brought us a step closer to solving this age-old riddle. The study dug deep into the common biomarkers, including cholesterol and glucose levels, in individuals who have lived past the age of 90.

Deciphering the Biomarker Code

Scientists have always been particularly keen on studying nonagenarians and centenarians. Understanding the secrets behind their longevity could be the key to not only living longer but doing so in better health.

The GeroScience study is groundbreaking. It's the largest of its kind, assessing biomarker profiles among those who live exceptionally long lives versus those who don't. Analyzing data from 44,000 Swedes, the research team monitored the health trajectories of these individuals for up to 35 years. Of this vast pool, 2.7% reached the age of 100, with women making up a whopping 85% of this group.

The research focused on twelve blood-based biomarkers linked to inflammation, metabolism, liver and kidney function, potential malnutrition, and anemia. Interestingly, these markers have been associated with aging or mortality in past research.

What The Biomarkers Tell Us

The study made some compelling discoveries:

  • Centenarians, as a whole, generally had lower levels of glucose, creatinine, and uric acid from their sixties and onwards.
  • Although the median biomarker values between centenarians and non-centenarians were not drastically different, centenarians rarely exhibited extreme highs or lows.
  • For many biomarkers, both groups displayed values outside what's considered "normal" based on younger populations.

Connecting these biomarkers to the likelihood of living up to 100, the study found that metabolic health and nutrition might be tied to exceptional longevity.

What Does This Mean for Us?

While the study doesn't directly point to specific lifestyle factors or genes responsible for these biomarker values, it does hint at the influence of nutrition, alcohol intake, and other factors. Keeping tabs on values like kidney and liver function, glucose, and uric acid seems advisable as we age.

However, the sheer unpredictability of reaching such an exceptional age reminds us that, while genes and lifestyle play their parts, there's an element of luck involved.

Planning for an Extended Future

In the backdrop of these discoveries, the importance of estate planning stands out. As more people live longer, the potential challenges of aging – especially disabilities – become pressing concerns. Planning for this extended future is essential.

While science continues to decode the mysteries of longevity, it's our responsibility to prepare and protect our assets, our health, and our legacies. Estate planning provides not just a safety net but a clear roadmap for our loved ones. In a world where living past 100 is no longer a rarity but a very real possibility, there's no better time than now to put those plans in place.

Stouffer Legal can help you plan for a long lifetime – and beyond. To begin the process of creating an effective Estate Plan, you can click here to view our online Estate Planning, Asset Protection and Elder Law workshop

Photo credit: The Wall Street Journal

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