Aim: To increase knowledge of the functional ability of centenarians by examining the situation of Japanese centenarians residing in an urban region in northern Japan. Methods: Questionnaires focused on functional ability, demographics, housing and care needs were received from 56 centenarians and 104 control subjects: 56 aged 80-89 and 48 aged 90-99. Results: Centenarian physical capabilities, care needs and health history were diversified. Centenarians most commonly resided with family in the community and were likely to utilize informal and insurance care services. Gender differences in functional ability by age groups known as gender cross-over were observed in control subjects but reduced in centenarians. A few who reported physical limitations were not entitled to receive nationally subsidized care services suggesting inaccuracies may have occurred during certification determination. Conclusion: Centenarians in northern Japan represent a heterogeneous cohort suggesting multiple paths to the attainment of advanced old age. This is the first study designed to provide a solid knowledge base of actual circumstances experienced by centenarians specifically in northern Japan.
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