SA’s golden oldies aren’t in short supply

2012-11-01 00:00

A STARTLING number of South Africans are living to the ripe old age of 100 — and 358 hardy old-timers were between 115 and 120 when Census officials came knocking last year.

The good news for KZN residents, is that the province has its fair share of centenarians.

The 2011 Census counted 2 797 South Africans over the age of 110, and 15 581 people over the age of 100 in the country, official data reveals.

Of the metros, Cape Town had the most citizens over 100 at 1 051, followed by Durban with 971 and Johannesburg with 953. Durban was home to 31 people who indicated their ages as between 115 and 120.

Although the highest number of over-100s live in the larger metros, a number of smaller rural municipalities in the Northern Cape, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape are home to surprising numbers of very old citizens.

In uPhongolo in rural northern KwaZulu-Natal, there were 14 people aged between 115 and 120, and in Mthatha’s King Sabata Dalindyebo municipality, there were 12.

Thembeni Mahlopa-Mthethwa, a former mayor of Jozini, said it was well-known that people in the area lived to a ripe old age and put it down to the food they eat.

“People say they’re poor, but they eat fresh food that they grow themselves, they don’t really eat meat and they get exercise from the agricultural work they do and walking to the fields,” she said.

Blouberg local municipality in Limpopo is home to 102 people over 100. Aganang, also in Limpopo, has 132 and Louis Trichardt 302.

Tiny Mier in the Northern Cape, has 14 over-100s out of a population of only 7 003.

Stellenbosch University’s Dr Dawie van Velden was surprised by the high number of over-100s, but concurred that diet and lifestyle would have a definite influence on health and longevity.

“A diet that tends to be more vegetarian, without junk food, combined with a less stressful life, can definitely improve your health, so it makes sense that people living in deep rural areas could live for a long time.

“Eating slightly too little is not nearly as bad for you as over-eating, and in the city many people die because of heart failure and diabetes, which are related to diet and lifestyle.

“On the other hand, more and more retirement homes have frail care centres with specialised medical care.

“[This] means that people can be kept alive for longer,” he said.

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