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We recently told you about Mrs. Hester Ford, the oldest supercentenarian in the US. She lived to be 115 or 116. And Jeanne Calment of France is the oldest supercentenarian on record. She lived 122 years and 164 days at the time of her death in 1997.

But a recent study published in the journal Demographic Research shows that a life span of 130 years is a possibility by 2100. 

In the last several years, the number of people who live past the age of 100 has grown to half a million worldwide, with more than a few living to be 110 or even older. 

Scientists and researchers don’t all see eye to eye on this subject. 

Some predict a fixed limit to human life span, based on biological forces, such as the inevitable deterioration of cells. Others say that mortality for people in their 80s and 90s has decreased significantly in recent years. They also argue that proposed caps to human life span have always been broken within an average of 5 years after they were suggested.

Both arguments share uncertainty and a lack of knowledge regarding the mechanisms of aging, which prevents them from forming conclusive conclusions about human life span.

“People are fascinated by the extremes of humanity, whether it’s going to the moon, how fast someone can run in the Olympics, or even how long someone can live,” said Michael Pearce, a doctoral student and lead author of the longevity study. “With this work, we quantify how likely we believe it is that some individual will reach various extreme ages this century.”

Prior to 2010, statistical analysis of supercentenarians was limited by age attainment bias, which is the tendency of people of advanced age to exaggerate or round up their age. For their study, the authors used updated longevity data in the International Database on Longevity (IDL), established by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, to reduce the risk of this possible bias.

This database was the first dataset that rigorously verified birth, life, and death records of supercentenarians, only including those whose age could be confirmed with a high degree of certainty.

For this study, the researchers used the IDL records of 1,119 individuals in 10 European countries and Canada, Japan, and the United States who reached at least 110 years of age. The database also includes records of nearly 14,000 individuals from these countries — except Finland, Japan, Spain, and Sweden — who died between 105 and 109, called semi-supercentenarians.

Using Bayesian population projections, the researchers could forecast the number of people who may survive to age 110 during this century. The Bayesian method describes the probability of an outcome based on knowledge of existing conditions that might influence the event in question.

They created projections for the maximum reported age at death in all 13 countries for the years 2020–2100. Their results show a nearly 100% probability that someone will break the current maximum-age-of-death record set by Calment.

There is also a 99% probability of a person living up to 124 years and a 68% probability of reaching 127 years. An even longer life span of 130 years is possible but much less probable at 13%. 

Co-author Adrian E. Raftery explained that even though the model used in this study suggests that the maximum reported age at death will continue to increase, the frequency at which this record is broken will decrease unless the number of supercentenarians grows significantly. With a continually expanding global population, researchers believe this growth is possible.

“This is a very select group of very robust people,” said Raftery. “They’ve gotten past all the various things life throws at you, such as disease. They die for reasons that are somewhat independent of what affects younger people.”

Long(er) live the supercentenarians!