In 1911 there were 100 people aged 100 or more (Centenarians), today there are just over 9,000 - ninety times more, according to the Office of National Statistics. Some estimates put the total at almost 40,000 in twenty-five years' time.

From 1911 to 1950 the number of Centenarians in the UK remained fairly constant (a small annual rise). However, as a result of better housing, nutrition, sanitation and healthcare in the 1950s the numbers started to climb dramatically. According to the Office of National Statistics, the fastest growing age group in the UK is people in their 90s.

Along with greater longevity in a country's general population come higher health service costs - the very elderly are much more likely to suffer from cancer and dementia, compared to the rest of the population. The Office of National Statistics informs that all industrialized countries are experiencing the same.

Thirty years ago there used to be seven female Centenarians to every male Centenarian in the UK. However, the gap is closing fast - mainly due to improvements in death rates that have been greater for males.

The oldest people in recorded history

Several claims around the world over the last hundred years have been hard to prove. The longest unambiguously documented lifespan was that of Jeanne Calment, France. She was born in 1975 and died in 1997, aged 122 years. When she was 14 years old she met Vincent van Gogh.

Shigechiyo Izumi, Japan, is disputably the oldest man ever. He is said to have lived till he was 120 years. His lifespan is recognized in the Guinness Book of Records. However, there is doubt that perhaps his birth date was confused with that of his older brother who died when he was young.

-- Tables listing longest lifespans by country - Wikipedia (scroll down the page a bit to find the tables)

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