Living to be 100

Living to be 100 is subtitled: 1200 who did and how they did it. This is Osborn Segerberg, Jr.'s second study concerning longevity. In 1974 he published The Immortality Factor a work that reviewed scientific advances concerning life extension.

Living to be 100 is a different sort of study. It it gives your insight into the lives of 1200 Centenarians here in the United states.

The author has mined several major sources for information. He uses the well known The Duke University Longitudinal Study of Aging. This scientific study is often cited by writers on the subject of aging. It examined some 268 subjects over the course of 20 - 28 years doing periodic follow ups about some 788 physical, psychological and social qualities.

But Segerberg's main source of information for this book was interviews of centenarians done by the Social Security Administration from 1960 - 1972. This is its great strength. These interviews have been almost forgotten - even in the research community.

It seems that from 1960, when the first Social Security recipients began to turn 100 years, the Social Security Administration made sure that its field agents visited each participant who turned 100. Local newspapers were often notified of the visit. Pictures were taken. It was a celebratory event as well as a time of information gathering.

The agents interviewed these centenarians about their lives and their daily habits. The SSA attempted to standardize the interviews but inevitably there were individual variations depending on the field agent and the Centenarian. The social security administration collected each years information and published it. There was one volume published each year - except 1968, which required 2 volumes. The interviews and publications stopped in 1972 because SSA was given additional duties and they no longer had the staff to spare for these interviews.

The original volumes were distributed free of charge. Few people saved them. Now they are rarities. Osborn Segerberg Jr. tracked down copies, studied them and Living to be 100 is the result. He has done a real service to those interested in history and in the topics of aging and longevity.

This book not only offers you a glimpse into the daily life of Centenarians, but also an personalized view of the history of the United States from Civil War days onward - all through the lives of ordinary people.

One of the most interesting parts of the book are its appendixes which include: the questions Social Security agents were given to ask, summaries of scientific research upon which the questions were based, additional supporting research, materials added over time, listing of specific data from the questionnaire results and reviews of significant categories.

While the interviews and photos may be intriguing and inspiring, it is this last section that adds much for contemporary researchers into longevity and life extension.

Living to be 100 belongs in every library with a section devoted to aging or longevity. And it makes a good read for American History buffs. Osborn Segerberg Jr. is able to take dry as dust data and policy papers and construct an interesting, informative narrative.

Find a copy at

Living to be 100 by Osborn Segerberg Jr. ISBN 0-684-17292-5

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