An open access review of the New England Centenarian Study:
The New England Centenarian Study (NECS) was founded in 1994 as a longitudinal study of centenarians to determine if centenarians could be a model of healthy human aging. Over time, the NECS along with other centenarian studies have demonstrated that the majority of centenarians markedly delay high mortality risk-associated diseases toward the ends of their lives, but many centenarians have a history of enduring more chronic age-related diseases for many years, women more so than men. However, the majority of centenarians seem to deal with these chronic diseases more effectively, not experiencing disability until well into their nineties.
Unlike most centenarians who are less than 101 years old, people who live to the most extreme ages, e.g., 107+ years, are generally living proof of the compression of morbidity hypothesis. That is, they compress morbidity and disability to the very ends of their lives. Various studies have also demonstrated a strong familial component to extreme longevity and now evidence particularly from the NECS is revealing an increasingly important genetic component to survival to older and older ages beyond 100 years. It appears to us that this genetic component consists of many genetic modifiers each with modest effects, but as a group they can have a strong influence.