More and more Prairie people are living to 100

As more people live to 100, the demands on health care, assisted living facilities and better transit will continue to grow.

The number of centenarians in Canada is growing. 

  • In 2018, there were 9,457 centenarians in Canada, and that number has consistently increased year over year.
  • In 2022, there were 13,485, according to Statistics Canada.
  • That’s about a 43 per cent increase over four years. 

At the end of 2022, over 39 million people were living in Canada.

  • According to Statistics Canada, centenarians comprise about 0.03 per cent of our population.

In Saskatchewan, there were 574 centenarians in 2022.

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  • This is an increase of 25 per cent over the last four years.
  • Centenarians make up about 0.05 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population. 

In Manitoba, there were 539 centenarians in 2022.

  • That’s about 0.04 per cent of Manitoba’s population.
  • This is an increase of 11 per cent over the last four years.

Canada’s aging demographic

Those 85 years old and up make up a much bigger demographic of Canadian society.

  • 861,000 people in this age group were counted by the 2021 Census, more than twice the number recorded in 2001.
  • That’s about 2.3 per cent of Canada’s adult population.

Saskatchewan has the third highest population of people 85 and older per capita.

  • Manitoba is in eighth place.
  • Quebec has the highest, followed by New Brunswick. 

Currently, in Saskatchewan, the communities with the highest population of 85 plus per capita are:

  1. Humboldt
  2. Melfort
  3. Weyburn
  4. Swift Current
  5. Yorkton.

In Manitoba, the communities with the highest population of 85 plus per capita are:

  1. Dauphin
  2. Selkirk
  3. Neepawa
  4. Gimli
  5. Stonewall 

85 plus is one of the fastest-growing age groups, having increased by 12 per cent from 2016. 

This means in about 25 years, the population aged 85 and older could be 2.5 million people.

  • By 2031, the oldest baby boomers will be 85.

People are living longer because of advances in modern medicine and sanitation, Heather Nelson, the lead nursing researcher on the centenarian study, told me.

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Many people 85 and older have activity limitations or health-related issues, like the 100-year-olds in this series. 

This puts a demand on our healthcare system, which, according to the Canadian Medical Association, is in crisis

There will also be a need for more assisted living facilities, apartments within walking distance of grocery stores, better transit and other amenities that seniors utilize.   

The documentary

Below is the final article on the centenarian series. 

In case you missed it, you can read the first two parts here:

Part 1 – Breaking the rules at 100
Part 2 – What’s there to complain about at age 100?

You can also watch the 30-minute documentary I produced and directed as part of this series (Thanks to reader Ev, who caught my typo on last week’s thumbnail). 

The film looks at these women’s past and present lives but doesn’t touch on the study that much, while the article focuses mainly on the present and the study.

Heather and the research team are still working on their paper about the study, and once that’s published, I will share the results.

Part 3 – Keep doing what brings you joy at 100

Mary Woyton and Joyce Duncan sit side by side in chairs in a group exercise class. 

They each have a small medicine ball they lift over their heads, down to their laps, doing two sets of 10. Then they take the ball and twist it to one side and the other. And while seated, they did heel raises. 

After the exercise class, Joyce stands up and bends down, showing she can still touch her toes at 100. 

Later that afternoon, Mary’s daughter Cheryl Mack visited, and the two danced the polka together.

“Are you out of breath?” a slightly breathless Cheryl asked her mother after the dance. 

“No,” said Mary, who hadn’t broken a sweat.

“Some of the things that they (the centenarians) are doing now I could never do ever,” said Susan Page, one of the researchers.

“I bet you she was 90, and she would walk from her house to my house, so that’s about two kilometres,” said Cheryl about her mother. 

“Living to 100 isn’t just the luck of the draw that you just didn’t happen to have a health condition hit you earlier,” Heather hypothesized early in the study. “I think you have to be one of those people who at 70 is a go-getter and at 80 is still a go-getter in order to be that feisty 100-year-old.”

Mary went to Disneyland with her grandchildren when she was 85.

Joyce drove across the country from Ontario to Saskatchewan in two days with five wire-haired terriers when she was 69.

“Life didn’t stop at 60 or 70,” said Heather.

Susan wondered if attitude plays a role in living to 100, but one of the other researchers, Beverlee Zieffliee, didn’t think it was that simple and recalled her grandmother who lived to be “a grouchy 101.”


Several of the centenarians described life in an assisted living home as boring. 

“(We) were busy with housework, children,” said Joyce.  “We were tired but happy.”

Jean Thomas, who keeps busy volunteering, can also get bored. 

“The pandemic has a lot to do with that,” she said. Before COVID-19 hit, Jean kept busy being a piano accompanist and attending scouting events.

The importance of family

“People come to visit you,” said Nick Ripplinger when his mother, Clementina Ripplinger, complained she had nothing to do. 

Family is important to each of the centenarians, the researchers found.

“Those visits mean everything to them,” said Susan. “They just seemed really excited every time they talked about their families.”

Even Betty Petersen, who, in her words, was never blessed with children, enjoys visits from her niece and nephew.

“Make good memories when you are younger so that you have something to look back on,” said Joyce, who likes to write about what she loves, like her husband and dogs.   

Taking joy in the little things

For the centenarians telling stories from their past is part of their lives. 

“It is something that is continuing to bring them joy right now,” said Heather, adding the centenarians appreciated small pleasures. “They liked ice cream. They liked chocolate.”

Heather said their lives still had a lot of joy.

 Paula Mayer, one of the nurses on Heather’s research team, agreed. 

“Life isn’t about the huge accomplishments,” said Paula. “It is the little things.”

Ninety-nine-year-old Mary said she is quite contented with her life, while Clementina said if she could go back in time, she wouldn’t have worked as hard. 

“We get so busy living our lives that we don’t look at whether we’re making good memories. We’re just in it,” said Paula. “So that was a beautiful part of their lives now. . . To be able to take that time and really delve right into those memories, feel those feelings again, and enjoy them all over again.”

The centenarians on death

All the centenarians that were a part of the research study were at peace with the fact that their deaths could be very near. 

“A couple of them, I thought, seemed more concerned with what happens to the world than what happens to them,” said Susan. “They’re just kind of enjoying life day to day now.”

Heather said none of the centenarians were doing a lot of long-term planning, although they did look forward to family events, like a nephew’s recital or birthday party. 

“They knew that they weren’t guaranteed tomorrow or next month,” Heather said. 

“I would be happy to go,” said Christine Adams.

“You’re not eager beaver to make it to 103?” asked Heather.

“It’s not up to me, my dear.”

Betty joked she was looking for the bucket to kick it, while Jean said she was too busy to think about dying yet. 

“I don’t think they are actually looking forward to dying,” said Susan. “They’re just if it happens, it happens.” 

“Death is around them,” said Heather, but added the centenarians the research team spoke to pushed back against age. “I think they always rebelled against that idea of being elderly and what that might mean to them. They were out walking themselves to church well into their 90s. They were living on their own. They were making big meals. They were doing all kinds of things that aren’t expected of people of that age.”

“Society expects them to sit in a chair, be quiet, maybe watch TV, read a book, play bingo,” said Beverlee. 

“(They’re) keeping on doing what they’ve always enjoyed. Playing music, doing taxes . . . the things they’ve always done. They just want to keep doing,” said Susan.   

Five stories from Manitoba you may have missed

  1. Refugees who lost fingers to frostbite in near-fatal 2016 bid to cross border become Canadian citizens
  2. RCMP still searching for missing Manitoba woman — 7 years after she last called home
  3. Churchill named one of “World’s Greatest Places” by TIME Magazine
  4. A culture of giving: Steinbach, Man., recognized for leading the country in generosity
  5. New set of rules for foreign duck hunters in Manitoba ‘changes everything,’ says American

Five stories from Saskatchewan you may have missed

  1. Former Humboldt Bronco player sets sights on Paralympics
  2. Rising beef costs loom, but the profits aren’t being felt by Sask. producers
  3. 100 years ago, Regina man made hockey broadcast history 
  4. Sask. child-care providers say they’re scrambling to prepare after province rushed $10/day program rollout 
  5. Meet the TikTok creator behind a redesign of the Sask. licence plate 

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