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Growing number of Ontarians reaching 100th birthday

Jan. 22, 2014

The number of centenarians – people 100 years old and older – in Ontario increased by 72 per cent in 15 years. At the same time, the number of people ages 85 to 99 nearly doubled.

That’s a very significant rise in the number of older adults. Scientists from Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) took a close look at this population to find out more about them and their healthcare needs.

The study – led by Dr. Paula Rochon, vice-president, research at Women’s College Hospital and senior scientist at WCRI – identified all people in Ontario ages 65 and over, and divided them into three age groups: 65-84, 85-99 and 100 and over. This information was gathered for each year from 1995 to 2010. The researchers then studied the centenarians in detail.

The centenarian population in Ontario grew from 1,069 in 1995 to 1,842 in 2010. More than 60 per cent of those people were 101 years old or older. About seven per cent (123 people) were 105 or older.

During the same time period, the number of people in Ontario ages 85-99 grew from 119,955 to 227,703 – an increase of 90 per cent.

Most people who reach their 100th birthday in Ontario are women: 84 per cent of the centenarian group, and 89 per cent of those 105 and over, were women. More than half (54 per cent) of the centenarian population lived in long-term care homes, but 45 per cent lived in the community, with 26 per cent receiving publicly funded home care. Just over half of centenarians had low incomes.

The most common health condition among people ages 100 and over was dementia, which affected 58 per cent. Arthritis (55 per cent), congestive heart failure (35 per cent) and COPD (27 per cent) were also common.

The most frequently prescribed drugs were diuretics (used by 52 per cent of centenarians) and laxatives (48 per cent). Eighteen per cent of centenarians took bisphosphonates, and about 11 per cent took statins. Benzodiazepines were used by almost one-quarter of the group, and 16 per cent took antipsychotic medications, but use of these treatments was much more common among people with dementia.

Almost all people ages 100 and over (95 per cent) saw a family doctor in the previous year. In contrast, only 5 per cent saw a geriatrician (a doctor who specializes in caring for older adults). More than one-quarter (27 per cent) had used an emergency room in the previous year, and almost one in five (18 per cent) had been hospitalized.

The mortality rate was high among centenarians, with 58 per cent of those who were 100 or older in 2010 dying within two years. Mortality was lowest (39 per cent) for those without dementia who were living in the community without home care. It was highest (66 per cent) among dementia patients living in long-term care.

The study authors noted the value of collecting information on people in the oldest age groups. The number of centenarians is growing as people are living longer. Understanding the healthcare needs of this demographic group will become increasingly important.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on Jan. 8, 2014.

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