Molly Greenberg loved the horse-and-buggy rigs as a child in New York, even as the new-fangled Model T car was becoming popular. Women didn't have the right to vote when she was born in 1912, and their life expectancy was 56 years.
A century later, she's had the last laugh on a lot of things.
Greenberg has voted in 20 presidential elections, she's nearly doubled that life expectancy, and her mind is so sharp she can debate the benefits of computers.
It used to be that people who made it to 100 years old were fuzzy-minded at best, and they numbered mighty few at that. Not so much anymore.
"Oh, my, the changes I've seen," Greenberg said one recent afternoon at her Oakland, Calif., senior-complex apartment. "I've actually liked a lot of them. Man going to the moon was one, I'll say that."
There are more centenarians in America than ever before, according to new figures from the 2010 U.S. Census.
Fueled by advances in medical care and health practices, the number of centenarians in the United States grew by 66 percent between 1980 and 2010 to 53,364, while the total population increased 36 percent.
Only about 35 percent of people over 100 nationwide live in a nursing home, requiring around-the-clock care -- down significantly from 48 percent as recently as 1990. That means most of the rest are living with family or independently, and experts say that number will grow in coming years.
The trouble for many people as they become very elderly is that most assisted-living complexes cost from $4,000 to $10,000 a month, and around-the-clock nursing homes run more than $5,000 a month.
If a person retires at 65 and makes it to the life expectancy for current U.S. residents of 81 years for women and 76 for men, it puts a strain on the nest egg. Social Security checks topping out at $2,500 a month help, but can't carry the load.
Greenberg is typical of American centenarians in at least one respect -- she's a woman. Just 17 percent of people 100 and older are men, which isn't surprising considering societal habits, experts say.
"For men 85 years and older, heart attacks from stress, smoking, war, things like that are more likely causes of death than for women," said Dr. Rebecca Conant, a geriatrician and associate professor at University of California, San Francisco.
Greenberg notes that her mother made it to 90, her father 86, and seven brothers and sisters all passed away in their 90s. Her remaining siblings are 90 and 92.
Other than be blessed with good genes, her advice: "Don't smoke, don't overeat, and don't drink too much."
(Reach Kevin Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com.)