Retirement Could Be the Best Time in Your Life

April 29, 2014 ( – When asked what stage in life they remember most fondly, both Centenarians and Baby Boomers express the most nostalgia for their 30s (20% and 24%, respectively).

Boomers also reflect fondly on their 20s (20%). However, according to a survey by UnitedHealthcare, 9% of Centenarians express the most fondness for ages 70 and up, and 3% say the best time in their life is now.

Both Centenarians and Baby Boomers feel younger than their age. The ninth annual UnitedHealthcare 100@100 survey finds, on average, Centenarians say they feel just 83 years old, while 65-year-old Baby Boomers say they feel 55.

When asked about living to the age of 100, Centenarians say they feel blessed (36%), happy (31%) and surprised (12%). Only 3% say they feel lonely. More than half 53% report they live independently, without the support of a caregiver to help them with their daily activities.

In terms of life goals, 53% of Centenarians say they have accomplished everything they would like to do, while nearly one-third feel 100 years just wasn’t enough. Twenty-two percent say they would like just a few more years, and 8% say it would take many more years to accomplish all of their goals.

Staying Well in Body and Spirit

For Centenarians, the keys to healthy aging are staying close to friends and family (91%), maintaining a sense of independence (88%) and eating right (86%). Baby Boomers’ keys to healthy aging have to do with mindset; maintaining a sense of independence tied with having a sense of humor (87%), followed by staying close to family and friends (84%).

Both age groups say they actively manage their physical health. Nearly nine in 10 see their primary care physician for an annual exam (87% of Centenarians and 89% of Baby Boomers). More than seven in 10 keep up with their vaccines, such as flu shots and shingles vaccinations (73% of Centenarians and 72% of Baby Boomers). Similar numbers report getting their eyes examined regularly (71% of Centenarians and 76% of Baby Boomers).

“This year’s survey paints an encouraging and exciting view of longevity in the United States, which is especially significant since the number of Centenarians in this country is expected to swell in the coming years,” says Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare Retiree Solutions, based in Minnetonka, Minnesota. “Both centenarians and Baby Boomers report feeling more youthful than the number of birthdays they’ve had, which is in part due to the proactive measures they’re taking to monitor and improve their health. This is a good reminder for all Americans to take charge of their health now so that they can enjoy life for many years to come.”

In addition to preventive care, both Centenarians and Boomers are staying active, with most walking or hiking at least once per week (56% and 74%, respectively). About one-third of Centenarians and Boomers do strength-training exercises every week (32% and 37%, respectively). Other top physical activities include indoor cardio exercise (23% of Centenarians and 39% of Boomers) and gardening (21% of Centenarians and 47% of Boomers).

Nostalgia and Milestones

Both Centenarians and Boomers say getting married and the birth of a child are the two life milestones they remember most warmly, but they prioritize the two events differently. Boomers are more likely to choose the birth of a child (32%) over getting married (20%), as opposed to Centenarians, who chose getting married (27%) over the birth of a child (14%). Boomers’ next-favorite milestone is the birth of a grandchild (12%). For Centenarians, it is completing their education and securing their first job (5% for each).

While many Americans can relate to the concept of turning into their mother or father, in terms of behavior, with age, this not the case for the Boomers and Centenarians surveyed. Around half of respondents feel this has never happened to them (39% of Centenarians and 48% of Boomers). Of those who say they eventually “became” their mother or father, Centenarians are most likely to say it happened in their 20s (15%), while Boomers say it happened in their 50s (13%).

Pessimism About the Future

Fifty-eight percent of Boomers say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, but just 36% of Centenarians agree. Boomers are also more likely than Centenarians to say Americans’ values have worsened during their lifetime (76% compared with 45% of Centenarians).

One thing on which both groups agree is that the country seems to be in more discord than ever. Despite having lived through several tense time periods, including the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, 59% of Centenarians and 73% of Boomers believe now is the most politically divided the country has been in their lifetime.

Fifty-six percent of Centenarians and 39% say they did not expect to see an African American president in their lifetime, but both groups anticipate another historic first in our nation’s leadership: A majority of Centenarians and Baby Boomers expect to see a woman as president in their lifetime (60% and 85%, respectively).

The survey cites U.S. Census Bureau projections that the Centenarian population will grow to more than 600,000 by 2050. And this year’s survey finds 29% of Baby Boomers say they expect to hit the century mark.

For the survey, market research firm Penn Schoen Berland interviewed 104 Centenarians (U.S. residents who are at least 100 years old or who will turn 100 this year) and 302 Baby Boomers (currently 65 years old or who will turn 65 this year) by phone between February 6 and 24.

The survey report is here.