Alison Fagan, Lorraine Gaffney, Mary McDonnell-Naughton
Athlone Institute of Technology, Athlone, Ireland
Background: The notable increases in life expectancies worldwide combined with advances
in contemporary medicine, escalating healthcare costs and increased demands on social
services has driven the interest in centenarians as a model for healthy ageing. According to
theUnitedNations, the global number of centenarians is set to continue to climb, expecting
to reach more than 25 million people in 2100 (Robine & Cubaynes, 2017). Though the
role of genetics in the context of successful ageing is irrefutable, it is important to recognise
that the determinants of ageing go beyond genetics alone and equal credence needs to be
given to one’s social and economic circumstances, to their physical environment and finally,
to one’s own individual characteristics and behaviours.
Methods: The study focused on selecting a subsample of participants who were 100 years
or older until the saturation point was reached. This study employed story telling (one to
one interviews) in order to give centenarians a voice. Stories help us to answer the “big”
questions about the meaning of life in general and of our lives specifically.
Results: A number of key themes emerged from the study denoting the factors that affect
the health and wellbeing of Irish centenarians including, social connectedness, resilience &
robust personality, continued participation in life throughout the life course and spirituality.
Conclusion: This research demonstrates that the successful attainment of longevity goes
beyond the maintenance of physical health and concludes that in order to promote
optimum well-being among older people, it is necessary to take note of the experiences,
views and values, of the older person themselves.
1. Robine,J.M., and Cubaynes, S. (2017). Worldwide demography of centenarians. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development. 165 (B): pp. 59 – 67.