According to the 2006 Census, there were 4,635 people aged 100 or older, up more than 22% from 2001 (3,790 centenarians) and nearly 50% from 1996 (3,125 centenarians). According to the latest population projections, the number of centenarians could triple to more than 14,000 by 2031.
Many industrialized countries have seen a similar surge in the number of centenarians. In Japan, for example, there were nearly 29,000 centenarians in 2006, which is over 23 centenarians per 100,000 population, a world record. There were about 14.7 centenarians per 100,000 population in Canada in 2006.
Figure 6 Number of centenarians in the Canadian population, 1996, 2001 and 2006
In the centenarian population in 2006, there were nearly five women for every man (3,825 women and 805 men), since women enjoy longer life expectancy. The geographic distribution of centenarians was similar to the distribution of Canada's population among the provinces: 37% live in Ontario, 22% in Quebec and 13% in British Columbia.
Today's centenarians lived through almost all of the 20th century, including two world wars and the Great Depression. They were fortunate enough to witness profound changes in Canadian society and major advances in science and technology.
In addition to the overall population growth, the rapid increase in the number of centenarians is largely due to the substantial gains in life expectancy in the 20th century. Centenarians' longevity is often attributed to various factors: genetic predisposition, with some families 'producing' more centenarians than others, a healthy lifestyle and a positive attitude toward life, especially in difficult situations.