Secrets of the Centenarians: What Is It Like to Live for a Century and Which of Us Will Survive to Find Out?

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In October 1995, a blind, deaf, French grandmother broke a world record. Jeanne Calment became, so far as we know, the oldest human being who has ever lived when she reached the age of 120 years and 238 days. She went on to survive for nearly three more years—dying in 1997 at 122 years and 164 days. On the long journey to her record-breaking age, Madame Calment acquired more and more company. The United States today has more centenarians than any other country, and they are the fastest-growing section of the population, with at least fourteen times as many centenarians as there were sixty years ago. Secrets of the Centenarians delves into the intriguing background of this incredible increase.

In the book, John Withington explores the factors that determine who among us will reach one hundred and who will not. Is it determined by lifestyle or by genetics or by geography? Why do women outnumber men so heavily among centenarians? What kind of life can you expect if you reach one hundred? Is surviving that long a blessing or a curse? Withington answers these questions and more, along the way telling stories of celebrity centenarians like the comedians Bob Hope and George Burns, songwriter Irving Berlin, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, Britain’s Queen Mother, and the scientist who invented LSD. Finally, Withington explores whether—even if the number of centenarians keeps increasing—there remains a maximum life span beyond which we cannot survive.

Thoughtful, well-researched, and highly entertaining, Secrets of the Centenarians reveals some of the most intriguing secrets of growing older.

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