What does it feel like to be 100? Socio-emotional aspects of well-being in the stories of 16 Centenarians living in the United Kingdom

Aging Ment Health. 2012;16(7):811-8. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2012.684663. Epub 2012 Jun 11.


Objectives: The purpose of this article was to describe socio-emotional themes in the stories of 16 Centenarians living in the United Kingdom.

Methodology: Sixteen Centenarians were recruited and interviewed face-to-face by members of the research team. Participants were invited to tell the story of their lives in line with the principles of participatory action research (Koch and Kralik, 2006). The resultant story was returned to the Centenarian and their significant others for their validation and ownership. Stories were further analysed alongside verbatim interview transcripts. The first author wrote her psycho-social interpretation of the socio-emotional content in each person s life. These psycho-social interpretations were combined to provide commonalities in experience.

Findings: These six common experiences or themes were: Engagement in the world, Happiness and describing a good life, Stoicism, Sources of support, Sources of frustration and Talking about death. All participants had strong interests. They reported their lives as having been 'good' or 'happy'. They were resilient in the face of stress. Their frustrations pertained to visual or mobility impairments. While they were accepting the death of spouses, siblings and significant others, they were silent about the proximity of their own. In this article, we consider these themes in the light of previous empirical findings and theories.

Conclusion: Centenarians indicated that life had been worth living and that it felt good to be 100 years of age. We explore the limitations of this study and discuss implications of the findings for those involved with the oldest old.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology
  • Death
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • United Kingdom