Born before WWI, Roberta McCain, age 106, attended all three of her son’s funeral services: the one held at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix on Thursday, the one held in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC as “Johnny” laid in state on Friday, and the one held at the National Cathedral in DC on Saturday. Mrs. McCain also attended Johnny’s burial at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland on Sunday.
A tall, dignified woman, McCain and her twin sister, Rowena, were born in Muskogee, Oklahoma on February 7, 1912. She was attending the University of Southern California when she met a young naval ensign, the son of Admiral John S. McCain, Sr. On January 21, 1933 Roberta and McCain, Jr. eloped to Mexico.
On August 29, 1936 Mrs. McCain gave birth to her second child, a boy she named after her husband. Little did she know that her Johnny would become a world leader. Roberta McCain also has a daughter in her 80s and a son in his late 70s, as well as twelve grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren.
Senator McCain said of his mother: “My mother was raised to be a strong, determined woman who thoroughly enjoyed life, and always tried to make the most of her opportunities. She was encouraged to accept, graciously and with good humor, the responsibilities and sacrifices her choices have required of her. I am grateful to her for the strengths she taught me by example.”
THE ELDERLY ARE LIVING LONGER
The receptionist at the eye clinic announced “Alma, you can bring your mother in now. Doctor is ready to see her.” Alma, white-haired & bent over, slowly got up from her chair. Leaning on a cane, she slowly made her way out to the parking lot. Over five minutes later, Alma returned with a woman in her 50s and mom, walking very slowly with the help of a walker. Alma and the younger woman were successful in getting mom into the exam room.
The elderly gentleman, hutched over in his upper back such that he had trouble lifting his head to talk to someone, and using a cane to cross the room, walked over to say “Good morning, Forrest.” After chatting with Forrest for a few minutes in the lobby of the assisted living facility, he turned to this writer to say “My mother lives here.” I later learned that his mother was 104 years old.
This writer’s father-in-law died in 2013 at age 97.5. Born before WWI, he was a bomber pilot during WWII, flying 50 missions from England to Nazi Germany. My aunt died in 2015 at age 95.5. She lost her first husband at the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, and also out-lived her daughter. She lived alone in her own house until a year earlier when her 40ish grandson moved in with her.
Lula was born in Missouri in 1920. She lost her only daughter four years ago, and her only son, in his late 70s, has cancer.
If a parent lives much past age 85 they can expect to outlive a son or daughter. Such is life in America today, with our first-rate medical system and high level of education.
ELDERLY POPULATION IS GROWING RAPIDLY
The death rates for centenarians started to decline in 2008.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, although Americans in their very golden years are still rare, the population has grown by 44% in recent years, from 50,281 in 2000 to 72,197 in 2014.
The study found that, after increasing 10% between 2000 and 2008, the death rate for female centenarians dropped 14% between 2008 and 2014 to 36.5 deaths for every 100 women. The death rate among males dropped by 20% from 2008 to 2014, after increasing 41% between 2000 & 2008, and was 33.2 per 100 in 2014.
According to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau and supported by the National Institute on Aging, over the next four decades, the population over age 90 is projected to more than quadruple. Because of increases in life expectancy at older ages, people 90 and older now comprise 4.7 percent of the older population (age 65 & older), as compared with only 2.8 percent in 1980. By 2050, this share is likely to reach 10 percent.
As of 2010, there were 1.9 million Americans age 90 and older.