Burgeoning ranks of centenarians could strain budgets

RALEIGH, N.C. — At 109, Alberta Thompson began life in the 19th century, lived every minute of the 20th and, despite some trouble getting around, remains sharp in the 21st. Until recently, Annie Laurie Williams, 105, climbed up and down the stairs at her Five Points-area home, part of her routine of daily exercise and a diet built largely on fruits and vegetables.

And Dr. Harold Eliason, a retired physician who lives at the Forest at Duke retirement community in Durham, celebrated his 104th birthday in February.

All three centenarians are trendsetters.

About 95,000 Americans are now 100 or older, census estimates show, and their closely watched numbers are predicted to more than quadruple by 2030, reaching 1.15 million by 2050. How healthy they remain in old age may have a dramatic effect on federal entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid, health-care experts say.

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