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Redefining longevity: the new centenarian spirit

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Indeed, observes Meg Guroff, an editor at AARP The Magazine, "We're already seeing those implications in people much younger. We have many more readers who are 50 years old ... going back to school, adopting children, starting a second or third or fourth career."

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As census workers fan out to take stock of the nation this year, they expect to find continued explosive growth in the centenarian population. Between 1990 and 2000, Americans 100 or older increased by 35 percent – from 37,306 to 50,454. The US Census projects that this group will increase more than 50 percent in this year's count, to 79,000. And a recent study in the North American Actuarial Journal projected 60 percent growth each decade of the coming century. The United Nations expects similar trends worldwide, estimating that by 2050, 1 in every 5,000 people will be over 100 years old, with China, the United States, Japan, and India having the largest populations of centenarians.

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