Turning 100 – The Newest Fad, by guest bloggist M.J. Johnston

A dear friend will be celebrating her 100th birthday next May.  That’s quite a milestone and I thought it was very rare until another friend commented that he was just attending a 100th birthday party.   Shops now have a separate category for “100th birthday” cards.  I remember Willard Scott of the TODAY show highlighting those few celebrating their 99th or 100th birthdays.  Now, he receives hundreds of requests each week so he rarely recognizes those who have only gotten to the century mark and features 105-108 year olds.

It turns out that centenarians (those who are at or over 100 years of age) are the fastest growing demographic in the “developed” world. America’s population of centenarians has doubled in the past 20 years and is expected to double again by 2020.  So, what’s behind this aging, or ageless phenomena?

Some would point to medical advances as having improved life expectancy; some to improved hygiene and clean water.  Others might argue that current lifestyles are more prone to exercise and eating properly.   Still another group would cite that prayer and faith provide the right ingredients.   All can point to research studies to prove these hypotheses, but there are just as many studies which disprove the same theories.

Interviews of centenarians also provide a wide spectrum of responses to the question, “What’s your secret?” –  including everything from regular church attendance to moderate alcohol consumption to a good diet. But, they almost always agree on one thing, they see themselves as vital.

I attended a talk at a retirement home several years ago where the speaker emphasized the importance of changing one’s view of ‘aging’ to ‘sage-ing’.  With that simple add of the letter ‘s’, I came to a very different view of passing calendar years.  It made me realize that I’m not getting older, I’m getting wiser along with a humility that I have lots more to learn and lots of opportunity to learn it!

I know many seniors (sages) who are wonderful role models for saging gracefully.  Instead of complaining of daily aches and pains, they focus on upcoming activities and they have a sincere interest in learning.  They also have a genuine concern in helping others while daily expressing gratitude for the good in their own lives.   Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science and a wonderful sage of the early 19th Century  wrote, “Each succeeding year unfolds wisdom, beauty, and holiness.”  Wise words from a woman who, at the time 49 was the average life expectancy for women, lived to be 89. Who wouldn’t want to have a birthday celebrating the expectancy of more wisdom, beauty and holiness?!

I have a ‘special-needs’ nephew who, when he comes to visit, loves to attend church with me.  On his last visit, a church friend commented that her high school son was glad my nephew was visiting because he likes to have other kids around.   My nephew, far from being a kid, isn’t focused on any concept of age and is unaware of the so-called aging byproducts, and appears to be a young man.  He consistently awakens each day happy and always asks, “What can I do to help?”   His life expectancy at birth was 7 years and he’s celebrating his 40th birthday this month.

So, don’t think you have to wait to turn 100 to be special or vital.  Your ability to express wisdom, beauty and holiness can begin now.  Start saging with vitality!

photo from

  • © GLOW IMAGES   models are used for illustrative purposes

Mary Jane (“M.J.”) Johnston is a former executive with a Fortune 10 company and is now in the full-time study and practice of Christian Science. She and her husband live with their (2) sons and “Grandma J.” in Lutherville, MD.   M.J. enjoys outdoor activities and plays the bagpipes with a local band.




  1. I love this topic. We all know people that have been old forever. They seem to enjoy the complaints and telling everyone of their aches and operations. Others just go about living life without a thought of whether someone “their age” can do this or that.

    The people that bask in the “I’m old” are the ones that live in the past for the good old days. We need to realize that today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be even better. You want to try something, do it. It is clear to me that we are better off if we never grow up. My wife can attest to the fact that I haven’t. Now if I can only get my kids to realize I am a “sage” when I give advice.

    • Mike – your expectancy of good both now and forever shows what a wonderful sage you already are – and your family is already blessed by that perspective!

  2. This blog is so inspiring! I love the idea of saying instead of aging! Thank you!