So, You Want to be A Centenarian?

Monday, September 17, 2018, was Respect For The Aged Day in Japan.

This is Japanese public holiday is celebrated annually in honor of its elderly citizens.  It began in 1966 and is held on the third Monday of September. On this day media features stories about the elderly and centenarians are given commemorative silver sake cups as well as a framed document celebrating the event.

A few days ago, a video circulating on Facebook indicated that Japan had recently set a new record for citizens who were over the age of 100.  The total now is just short of 70,000.  For the first time in the country’s history, one in five is over the age of 70.  One in four people are seasoned citizens, and there are estimates that the number could reach one in three by 2040.

Japan ranks first of all the G8 countries for these longevity stats.  Reasons cited for this spectacular accomplishment are:

  1. A balanced diet
  2. Japan’s healthcare system
  3. Genetics

After I shared this video I decided to research where Canada ranked and discovered something interesting from the census information connected in 2011:

As a country, Canada, with 17.4 per 100,000 ranks well below Japan, with 36.8 per 100,000 seniors who celebrate their 100th birthday on this side of the grass.

In fact, Japan blows every other G8 country out of the water with their centenarian stats!

The ranking is as follows:

Japan, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, the US, and Germany, with Russia taking the last place with just 3.8 per 100,000 citizens living to celebrate their 100th birthday.

Our low stats are the result of low a centenarian population in Newfoundland/Labrador, the territories (Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut), as well as Alberta. These stats reveal that, as of 2011, Saskatchewan had the HIGHEST amount of individuals reaching 100 years of age at 31 per 100,000 (way to go Saskatchewan!)

New Brunswick (where I live) came in second at 24 per 100,000 centenarian citizens.  New Brunswick is one of the Maritime provinces on the east coast of Canada.

It stands to reason that in order to reach 100 these seasoned citizens must have been quite healthy, otherwise they would not have reached this milestone.  However, it requires further investigation as to whether these centenarians are reaching a vigorous 100 years of age with their cognitive functions intact.

The Canadian Television Network, CTV’s Live at 5, regularly announces the birthdays of those Maritimers who reach their 100th birthday.  It is becoming more and more common to see these milestones being reached, as well as couples celebrating anniversaries for 65 and even 75 years of marriage.

Regardless of these birthday stats, the overall numbers are clear…Canadians are doing something to rank us lower on the centenarian stats than many of the other G8 countries.

Of these three reasons cited for the longevity of the elderly Japanese, the one every Canadian citizen can influence TODAY is their diet.

Interestingly, a balanced Japanese-style or Mediterranean-style diet (not one based on Canada’s skewed Food Guide) may also have the ability to influence our genetics by TURNING OFF genetic markers that stimulate disease and TURNING ON those markers that protect us from developing the diseases that plagued our genetic ancestors. The relatively new science of Epigenetics is currently doing research in this exciting field.

However, what good is a long life if we have no quality of life?  We must also consider not only living longer but living better longer.  Quality of life (longevity and vigorous health) is my focus.

To my knowledge, not one person in my family has contributed to the centenarian stats outlined above.

However, my family’s health legacy does not have to be mine.

According to a Globe And Mail Health & Fitness article, ongoing research is being conducted on those long-lived healthy Canadians termed as “super seniors.”

To qualify for this research, participants must be at least 85 and have never been diagnosed with the top-5 killer diseases – cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, and pulmonary disease.  The article states:

“Centenarians are the fastest-growing age group in Canada, numbering 8,230 in the 2016 Census. But the majority – two-thirds – are living out their days in nursing homes.”

Studies to date have determined that genetics is definitely a factor.  The article goes on to state that medical research is searching for new ways to genetically alleviate disease and give more of us the opportunity to live better longer.

In the meantime, time is of the essence!  We all know that the typical North American diet rich in sugar, processed food “products,” unhealthy fats, and fast food is associated with poor nutrition, declining health, and disease.  Considering the dietary habits of centenarians in the top two countries in the world, a Japanese-style diet, or a Mediterranean style diet, is definitely the best option.

A program based on the citizens of the Blue Zone Japanese island of Okinawa, as researched by Dr. Craig Willcox, states that these people eat three servings of fish a week, on average, as well as plenty of whole grains, vegetables, tofu, and konbu seaweed.  They drink plenty of jasmine tea and often consume the spice turmeric.

In an article published in January 2015, researchers at Harvard Medical School have successfully linked a Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish, while minimizing red as well as processed meats, and including a moderate amount of cheese and wine, to longevity.

Many of these dietary patterns also include calorie restriction – simply eating less, even of the good stuff.  This really interests me, as it is part of the way I instinctively eat.  The easiest method of calorie restriction is 16/8 intermittent fasting, as it follows our natural sleep-fast/wake-feeding interval.

How many truly elderly people contributed to your family tree?  Any octagenarians, nonagenarians,  or centenarians in your family stats?  If your family legacy includes plenty of healthy, long-lived ancestors, then you have hit the ground running, my friend!

If there are very few, or none, in your family tree, your family’s health legacy does not have to be yours!

What can you do about it in 2019?  Now is always the perfect time to begin your own research!


If this post has impacted your life in some small manner, feel free to share!

Remember, before beginning any significant lifestyle change, it is a wise practice to consult with your GP.




Published by Paula D. Tozer

I am a writer, poet and singer/songwriter. I am a Toastmaster, motivational speaker, personal creativity coach, and workshop leader. My most sincere wish is to share my words with others, and that we both benefit from the exchange.

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