Isle centenarian list grew to 275 in 2000
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By Susan Roth
Advertiser Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON In 2000, Hawai'i had 275 people more than 100 years old, according to census figures.
While numbers are not available for comparisons with other states, that's a lot of very old people for a small state.
Utah, whose total population was nearly double Hawai'i's 1.2 million, had a mere 155 centenarians, and it is also a state known for a healthy, outdoors lifestyle that is increasingly becoming a magnet for retirees.
Most of Hawai'i's centenarians 203 were of Asian ancestry, and more than half of them were Asian women. Most 211 lived on O'ahu.
None of this surprised local experts.
Dr. Alvin Onaka, chief of the Office of Health Status Monitoring at the state Health Department, has noted that "in terms of life expectancy, we have one of the highest in the United States," which he attributed to healthy diet and lifestyle, balmy weather, access to health care and ethnicity.
Hawai'i's female residents of Chinese descent live the longest, followed by women of Japanese ancestry, Onaka has said.
Native Hawaiians have had a shorter life expectancy because of persistent health problems and less access to health care, Onaka and others have agreed. Only five Hawaiians over 100 were living in Hawai'i last year.
The numbers made sense to Joan Bedish, executive director of the Kapahulu Center for seniors. Most of the 500 center members who participate in at least one activity each month are women of Japanese descent in their 70s and 80s who are healthy and vigorous and appear at least 10 years younger, Bedish said.
"I think they could live to be 100," she said. "It goes back to when they were growing up. They did a lot of hard work and got a lot of exercise, and their diet was probably primarily a Japanese diet without a lot of junk food.
"A lot of them still walk and exercise. They are really very healthy. There is no one over 100 here, but one of our members' mother was 100 and still living in her own house. They had somebody check on her, but she was doing very well."