Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Centenarians on the Rise in the US

Birthday party at the Kansas Masonic Home for Gladys Bever. 

Today I had the good fortune of attending a birthday party for Gladys Bever. At 103 years old, she remains fairly active.  She only just recently started using a walker. She's still very sharp. Her memory rivals that of people decades younger than she.
Gladys Bever, 103. 

Gladys enjoys reading books, primarily devotional literature.  She's one for whom the phrase "all that clean living" really applies while some other centenarians can hold onto some unhealthy habits. She focuses on the positive and shuns things that are contentious or frivolous.

I enjoy visiting with her each week. She tells me about many of her life adventures. We loan each other books.

She was born Gladys Oakley at home on July 30, 1910 in Yuba County near Marysville, California.  Gladys married H. Cecil Bever, who worked for decades as a preacher.

Gladys has performed hundreds of hours of church service in various states in the US and went on some service trips abroad, too. She has been an attentive mother for decades as well.

All three of her children--Howard, George and Gail--trained in the ministry.

Howard Bever (pictured below in the white long-sleeve shirt) is a minister in Dighton, KS and is a veteran of the US Air Force. Gail Bever Gunning (pictured below in the long-sleeved striped shirt) is currently an attorney in Norman, OK. She taught middle school in Enid, OK for a time.

Gladys celebrating with family. Click to enlarge.

I had the chance to visit frequently with their sibling, George, while he was a resident at Kansas Masonic Home a CCRC here in Wichita, Kansas where his mother Gladys continues to reside. George served as a minister in various states throughout his lifetime. He passed away on October 5, 2011.

It's exceptional to me to socialize with someone who is 103. However, my interest in active aging teaches me that the number of centenarians are on the rise.

According to a Centenarian Fact Sheet compiled by the United Health Group, "1 of every 26 baby boomers. . .will reach 100"; they cite the US Census Bureau for that projection.

US News & World Report also shares statistics from the US Census Bureau.  In 1980 the census found 32,194 centenarians.  By 2010, the number had increased 36.3% to 53,364.  Almost 80% of centenarians are women. The overwhelming majority are Caucasian.

A press release by the US Census Bureau predicts a growing diversity by gender and race in the coming decades along with even more growth for those 100 plus.

The term supercentenarians refers to those aged 110 and above.  The editors at Wikipedia maintain a list of living supercentenarians. Although now deceased, Sarah Knauss holds the record for the oldest verified supercentenarian in the US. She lived to be 119 years and 97 days old.

Whatever their demographic profile, most certainly centenarians will be a growing presence in the United States.  We have the opportunity to hear them share personal narratives about historic events and share their insights about trends and patterns that span several decades. Hopefully, friends and family members are collecting stories from our nation's centenarians.

Someone who is very focused on the lives of centenarians is Lynn Adler, Founder of the National Centenarians Awareness Project.  Visit the NCAP site for more information on how to recognize centenarians, read stories about their accomplishments, and how to advocate for older adults.


Talking with Older Adults: Serving as a Witness. Gladys attended the World's Fair in SF in 1915.
Put Down the Book and Go Visiting. Gladys tells me about the Japanese Internment.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thanks for bringing attention to the fact that we have an aging population that will have different needs than previous generations. Happy Birthday to her!

  3. Let's all go out and exercise and eat well. Plus a glass of sherry now and then.

    Happy Birthday, Gladys Bever!

    1. We can't completely control our health, but we can control a lot more than we usually admit!

  4. Thanks for being a friend to my grandmother. She speaks very highly of you and truly treasures you visits.

    1. I replied in the wrong place. Pleasure was all mine for each minute I spent with your grandmother. What a treasure!

  5. Pastor Tim: The pleasure is all mine. I enjoy talking with her. She's got so much life experience and a great outlook of life. I admire her faith a great deal.

  6. Great post. The centenarians are definitely on the rise in the US. I work in home care and assisted living in New Hampshire, and this is one thing that we've definitely started to notice in our area. Keep the great content coming!

    - Debbie

    1. Thanks for reading. All my best to you as you provide support for people as they age.