National Centenarian Awareness Project
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Founded in 1989 by Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.
Centenarian Expert and Older Adults Advocate

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Excerpt from an article in Get Up & Go! March 1998

The 100-Plus Hold Keys to Wisdom:
Lynn Adler

  Age is the top of the mountain
Nearer the sky so blue
A long hard climb; a bit of fatigue
But oh what a wonderful view!

Ida Maya Gilland Fox, a Wyoming pioneer and mother of centenarian Ida Fox penned [the above] poem [over 100 years ago]. Lynn Peters Adler found it tucked in a mother’s diaries, saved by a daughter… ["It is a timeless message," says Adler].

Today, Ida Fox’s story is a chapter in Adler’s "Centenarians: The Bonus Years" (Health Press, 1995), a collection of stories based on the accounts of their lives made by 250 centenarians. [Adler says the 100 and 100-plus men and women are lives which have bridged two centuries.] Adler celebrates these centenarians’ lives in her book, but also in her work on behalf of the National Centenarian Awareness Project, which she founded. …

…Today, the Centenarian Awareness Project is less than a decade old and already operates with a database of 2,000 entries on behalf of 100 and 100-plus Americans. Adler’s goal is to include as many of the 61,000 people who now are 100 and older in the United States as she can locate.

"My goal here is to portray the positive side of growing older… I am very committed to that, yet I recognized the real challenges of living a long life," says Adler.

We can help her. If you are a centenarian yourself, or know of a centenarian whose life you want to celebrate, think about joining Adler’s circle of friends. Let her know about yourself or about someone whom you think she should know.

In her field, Adler stands apart from the cynicism that has seeped into so much of the American public debate these days. She is positive, self-assured and committed to celebrating the lives of older Americans. She has worked as their advocate at least since her move in 1984 from New York to Phoenix.

… "I’m now in my 14th year. I have had a deep and an abiding interest in the well-being of older people ever since I was 15."

In some respects, she is an evangelical Margaret Meade on behalf of America’s elderly. She talks with them, she collects their stories, and she works hard at penetrating the walls that separate them from the generations before and after them. She reached her métier, she says, when she discovered just how much older persons still want and are able to contribute to our collective wisdom.

There’s also another dynamic at play, "People in their bonus years are benefiting from baby boomers’ new-found interest in aging issues. The sheer demographics of that are triggering an enormous awareness about aging issues," says Adler. Still, many are ambivalent about growing older and remain grounded in that part of America that is anti-aging.

That will last only so long, Adler warns. A positive outcome is if there is a "more holistic acceptance of aging." The role models for that will be none other than those who are our seniors, she says.

The demographics are impressive. In 1985, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 25,000 people age 100 or more. Today, the cohort numbers 61,000. By the year 2000, the number is projected to be 100,000 or better. People are healthier today. They are getting better medical care for ailments. At the same time, "it takes courage to grow old. A lot goes wrong with the body in the 80s and 90s."

Meanwhile, the media is becoming more receptive to portraying positive images of aging. Still, "45 to 50 percent of [the centenarian] population is impaired to the point where their quality of life is not good. It’s still true that the older among us are often the poorer among us," she said.

Also, many of the physical changes associated with age occur in tandem with the myriad losses a person experiences as he or she grows older. We lose our ability to drive. Our vision gets worse. Family member die. "Asking someone to give up his or her home can be just one too many things to let go of," Adler says.

It makes more sense if our public policy could turn toward an emphasis on keeping people in their homes whenever it’s at all possible; an insistence on preventive health care; and above all, not losing sight of the value in being positive.


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1998-2013 National Centenarian Awareness Project & Lynn Peters Adler, J.D.
No material, in whole or in part, may be reprinted or reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of Lynn Peters Adler and the National Centenarian Awareness Project.