Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Numbers of 'super seniors' double nationwide

313 call Tristate home; many more getting close

By Lew Moores and Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A disproportionate number of the Tristate's centenarians — people 100 years or older — live in Hamilton County, according to newly released 2000 U.S. Census data. That's even though the county makes up just 43 percent of the region's close to 2 million population.

   • There were seven local residents aged 110 or older when the 2000 Census was made. Five of them were women. Another 16 were age 105 to 109. That left 288 in the age group of 100 to 104.
   • Most of the centenarians lived in Hamilton County, where Cincinnati had the most women over 100 — 62 age 100 to 104 and seven age 105 to 109. Sycamore Township, Mount Healthy and Anderson Township each had seven women over 104. Deer Park was the only Hamilton County city with two women older than 110.
   • Of Cincinnati's 62 women age 100-104, 42 were white and 20 were black. Only 17 Cincinnati men had reached the 100 mark - 16 of them 100-104 and one in the 105-109 group. Eight black men were in the 100-104 range compared to seven whites. The only Cincinnati man older than 105 was black.
   The Enquirer is looking for those in the Tristate who have passed the century mark. Fill out this online form.
        The 2000 U.S. Census shows that 313 centenarians lived in the 13 counties that make up Greater Cincinnati at the time of the census. About 63 percent of them — 197 — lived in Hamilton County. About 82 percent of the local centenarians are women and 18 percent are men, roughly the same proportion as the national numbers.

        Some attribute the high number of centenarians living in Hamilton County to the better access to health specialists and care facilities that a larger urban area offers.

        “There are a lot more facilities and services available,” said Arlene de Silva, chief operating officer for the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio, which provides services to elderly clients in five Ohio counties.

        No numbers were available on centenarians from the 1990 census in Greater Cincinnati, so it isn't precisely clear how fast this population segment is growing locally. But census officials estimate that the numbers of centenarians has nearly doubled nationally over the past 10 years.

        About 36,000 people age 100 and older were counted in the 1990 census nationally; that number jumped to 68,000 in 2000.

        That increase was even more dramatic than the number of Americans age 65 and older, which jumped just 12 percent in those 10 years.

        Experts generally cite better health care and older people taking better care of themselves as the reason more people are hitting the century mark.

        But ask some centenarians themselves the secret to life over 100 and the answers often can be more homespun — maintaining a cheery disposition and avoiding a lot of carousing.

        “I guess I'm just a happy person, someone who has a sense of humor,” said Lulu Wolking, who was born on Nov. 29, 1898, and will turn 103 later this year.

        “Trying to behave myself,” said Elmer Huber, explaining his secret for longevity. He was born on Sept. 6, 1897, and will reach his 104th birthday in less than two months. “Just staying good and not being bad. Don't do a lot of carousing and things like that.”

        Both are residents of Maple Knoll Village, a retirement community with a population of 698 in Springdale. Mr. Huber and Mrs. Wolking are two of the three centenarians who live at Maple Knoll (a fourth is a volunteer at the village).

        But that number could increase by six next year, and jump to 46 more centenarians within the next five years, said Dee Smart, spokeswoman for Maple Knoll.

        “Our residents are very aware of wellness issues,” said Ms. Smart. “You'll see them out walking, you'll see them at the pool swimming. They're aware of nutrition. There's a fitness center, we have yoga and tai chi. It's lifestyle and health, and there's also a spiritual dimension.”


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