Sunday 18 March 2018

Women outpace men in reaching 100 years

Elderly generic
Elderly generic
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Growing numbers of Irish people are living to be 100 years of age - but women are outpacing men when it comes to reaching the magnificent milestone.

Of the 407 who received the special bounty from President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin last year, 215 were based in Ireland. Of these, 32 were men - but 183 women joined the exclusive club.

In 2010, there were 334 Irish who celebrated their 100th birthday at home and abroad and received the card of congratulations along with the cheque for €2,240.

But their ranks climbed to a record 424 in 2013, despite being born into an Ireland in the early part of the last century when many so many lives were claimed by childhood diseases.

Centenarians were back in the spotlight in recent weeks after it emerged that two women aged over 100 had to spend more than 24 hours on A&E trolleys, including Rose O'Halloran (102), who was in the emergency department in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.

Last year, the 407 centenarians who were honoured were the first generation who were born during World War One and lived through the 1916 Rising, the Irish War of Independence, and World War Two.

Of the 407 centenarians who received the bounty from President Higgins - himself a mere 74 - there were 215 resident in Ireland and 192 abroad.

Most of the Irish centenarians abroad live in the UK and Northern Ireland, with the remainder in the USA, Canada and Australia.

The President's bounty was extended to include Irish people not resident in Ireland in March 2006.

In 2014, there were also commemorative medals issued to 626 centenarians , 335 of whom were living in Ireland.

The oldest recipient was an Irish woman aged 112 who was living in the United States. The oldest person to be honoured here was 109 years old.

Commenting on the rise in centenarians, Dr Shaun O' Keeffe, a geriatrician in University Hospital Galway, said: "The proportion of older people is rising rapidly. Ireland is experiencing a particular rise in the elderly.

"We will see a rise in the next few decades in older people and in very old people including those over 100. It will be a quite dramatic increase in the coming decades."

He said this is mainly due to demographic effects because of the structure of our population. "There is no doubt that longevity has increased in recent decades and this is due to better healthcare and also better living conditions as well. It is not a single factor."

Asked if there was a link between a parent living to a ripe old age and their children doing the same, he said genetic inheritance does play a role but not as much as lifestyle and environmental influences. "It helps if your mother lived to be 100, but if she did not it does not mean you will not."

He has come across extraordinarily healthy centenarians. Often the very elderly are a sturdy bunch to make it that far, he said.

Irish Independent

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