Centenarians’ marital history and living arrangements: pathways to extreme longevity
Michel Poulain, Tallinn University and Université Catholique de Louvain
Anne Herm, Tallinn University
Objectives. The mortality risk for older persons is associated with marital status and living arrangements (with whom a person is living). This study analyzes male and female centenarians’ demographic trajectories and investigates how these might be associated with becoming a centenarian. Data and methods. Original longitudinal register-based data on 3,000 Belgian centenarians born during the years 1893-1903 were used to reconstruct their marital histories and living arrangement trajectories from age 60 to 100. Results. Male and female centenarians had different marital histories and living arrangement trajectories after age 60. Male centenarians lived twice longer with their spouse than did female centenarians who lived alone more than half the time. Male centenarians had younger wives and female centenarians had older husbands than non-centenarians. More than half of the widowers remarried and did so with a woman who was generally more than 10 years their junior. Most centenarians ended their life in a nursing home and entered it very late. Discussion. At the oldest ages, living with their spouse is beneficial for men but not for women, for whom living alone becomes more favorable. Compared with people who did not live as long, centenarians followed living arrangement trajectories associated with lower mortality risks.