American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Want to Live to be 100?

Nov. 5, 2014   

Osteopathic Physician Shares Tips on Aging Gracefully

(CHICAGO)— The elusive fountain of youth may not be so elusive as more Americans reach their 100th birthday than ever before—with nearly 1 million expected to do so by 2050. The good news:  there are multiple routes to achieving longevity.   

Thomas A. Cavalieri, DO, dean of the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Glassboro, New Jersey and director of the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging, recently presented on “Aging Successfully and Living to be 100,” at American Osteopathic Association’s OMED 2014, the Osteopathic Medical Conference & Exposition in Seattle.

“People don’t necessarily want to live long unless they can maintain their quality of life,” said Dr. Cavalieri. There is no one factor responsible for healthy aging. “Exercise is the single most important activity a person can utilize to enhance successful aging.  There is an exercise prescription for everyone,” he said.

Dr. Cavalieri explained that those who survive to an extreme old age tend to share four common factors:  good genes, healthy lifestyle, positive behavioral and social interactions, and a little bit of luck.

According to the US Census Bureau, life expectancy is increasing exponentially.  In 1900, the average life expectancy was 49 with three million people 65 and older; today, it is 78.6 with 40 million 65 and older.  By 2050, there will be 19 million adults 85 and older.  Currently, the U.S. has the largest population in the world with people 100 or older. By 2050, there will be approximately 834,000 centenarians in the United States, with females comprising 82% of that population.

Quality of Life Can Be Enhanced in the Golden Years

“Physicians can help enhance a patient’s quality of life, even when they are considered ‘old.’  For example, if you reach age 90, research shows you should live another 8.3 years,” said Dr. Cavalieri.

What is the secret to aging successfully?  Good genes are about one-third of longevity. The rest is up to the individual and can be influenced by lifestyle and behavior. He says that studies show that the longest living adults share the following characteristics: regular exercise, eating wisely, less stress, putting families first, strong social networks and sense of community, living with a sense of purpose and a strong belief in God.

Dr. Cavalieri said that even the Bible has advice on aging, and puts the human lifespan—the maximum amount of years to live— at 120 years, which is in line with science, as the oldest person ever recorded died at the age of 122.

He says that researchers have found that healthy aging widely varies based on geography and gender, but that  regardless, optimal aging happens when a person has the capacity to function across many domains—from the physical and emotional to the cognitive, social, and spiritual—  to one’s satisfaction and in spite of one’s medical conditions.

Living Longer with Less Disability

“We cannot always prevent chronic diseases, but we frequently can prevent disabilities associated with those diseases,” said Dr. Cavalieri.  “There is evidence that people are living longer lives with less disability. Studies show that as life expectancy has been increasing, the rate of disability has been on the decline, that is, an improved quality of life.  This trend should accelerate, but some researchers believe that the obesity epidemic could reverse this trend.”

To live longer with less disability, Dr. Cavalieri says a healthy lifestyle is important. This includes embracing a healthy diet by taking a multi-vitamin, drinking a glass of wine daily, replacing saturated fat and eating whole grains. He also recommends regular exercise, avoiding smoking, getting a good night’s sleep and practicing preventative medicine. 

He says a person’s behavior and social interactions are also important. Those who minimize stress, have better coping skills, have a good attitude/resilience, have a support system, volunteer, have cognitive stimulation and are spiritual, also have been found to successfully age with limited disability.

Can lifestyle changes even at 50 or 60 years old impact aging? “There is a lot of evidence that making lifestyle and other changes have a positive impact—even smoking cessation— at a later age. The interventions we are talking about—no matter what age we intervene, there can be positive outcomes. We can always make changes that lead to an improvement in the quality of life,” said Dr. Cavalieri.

About the American Osteopathic Association

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 104,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at



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