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Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research
Volume 2010 (2010), Article ID 423087, 12 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2010/423087
Research Article

Typologies of Extreme Longevity Myths

1New England Centenarian Study, Geriatrics Division, Department of Medicine, Boston University Medical Center, Boston, MA 02493, USA
2Département de Démographie, Université de Montréal, Montréal, QC, Canada H3C 3J7
3FNRS, IACCHOS, Université Catholique de Louvain, 6000 Charleroi, Belgium

Received 13 April 2010; Revised 10 September 2010; Accepted 28 December 2010

Academic Editor: Donald Craig Willcox

Copyright © 2010 Robert D. Young et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Purpose. Political, national, religious, and other motivations have led the media and even scientists to errantly accept extreme longevity claims prima facie. We describe various causes of false claims of extraordinary longevity. Design and Methods. American Social Security Death Index files for the period 1980–2009 were queried for individuals with birth and death dates yielding ages 110+ years of age. Frequency was compared to a list of age-validated supercentenarians maintained by the Gerontology Research Group who died during the same time period. Age claims of 110+ years and the age validation experiences of the authors facilitated a list of typologies of false age claims. Results. Invalid age claim rates increase with age from 65% at age 110-111 to 98% by age 115 to 100% for 120+ years. Eleven typologies of false claims were: Religious Authority Myth, Village Elder Myth, Fountain of Youth Myth (substance), Shangri-La Myth (geographic), Nationalist Pride, Spiritual Practice, Familial Longevity, Individual and/or Family Notoriety, Military Service, Administrative Entry Error, and Pension-Social Entitlement Fraud. Conclusions. Understanding various causes of false extreme age claims is important for placing current, past, and future extreme longevity claims in context and for providing a necessary level of skepticism.