William Parker Darwin
William Parker Darwin of Burleson, TX, recently turned 105. He is an avid reader, eats a healthy breakfast and takes no prescription medications. Credit: Veterans Home Care

The longevity of Queen Elizabeth, who died at 96, was remarkable. But nonagenarians and centenarians increasingly are becoming more common in the United States — and home care.

Veterans Home Care, a St. Louis, MO-based home care company that helps wartime veterans or their spouses access the Veteran Administration’s Aid and Attendance Benefit, regularly cares for the oldest of the old. It currently has 40 clients who are 100 years old or older.

“Each month, there’s typically at least one client celebrating a 100th birthday,” David Laiderman, CEO of Veterans Home Care (VHC), told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse.

One client, William Parker Darwin, from Burleson, TX, turned 105 on Aug. 19. Two current clients, born in 1916, are 106.

“For a time Belle Christian, a surviving spouse of a WWI veteran — yes, the first World War — held the record as Veterans Home Care’s oldest client at 106,” Laiderman said. “Mrs. Christian eventually needed a higher of level of care and stopped receiving services from VHC. She died Sept. 7, 2021, ultimately living to be 108 years old.”

The presence of centenarians at Veterans Home Care is a reality across the United States — and their ranks are growing. In 2016, there were 82,000 people in their 100s in the U.S. That number is expected to rise to 140,000 in 2030 and 589,000 in 2060, according to the research company Statista.

The secret to their long lives continues to remain a subject of fascination and curiosity, with their diet, disposition, lifestyle and genetics carefully scrutinized. Darwin, a client of Veterans Home Care, eats two kinds of cereal for breakfast, along with a variety of berries, toast with butter and jelly, orange juice and V8. He takes no prescription medications, just vitamins. And he reads several books each week. At the age of 100 — while still in perfect health — he went to live with his widowed niece, Barbara Motley, in Texas. He now receives visits from two caregivers a week, who help with meal preparation, laundry and conversation.

Unfortunately, many of the oldest old wait too long to receive the care they need due to cost, Laiderman explained.

“It’s not unusual for Veterans Home Care to start a client’s care and help them begin the VA Aid and Attendance application process at the age of 90 to 100,” he said. “Sadly, many of these seniors could have qualified for the VA benefit sooner and could have been using VA funds for custodial care, but they didn’t realize the benefit existed.”

“Our main message to families with older adults is not to wait to seek home care services for your loved one because VA funding may be available,” he added. “Every day, through our website and referral sources, we reach a family that was unaware of the VA Aid and Attendance benefit.”

Editor’s note: Home Sweet Home is a feature appearing Mondays in McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The story focuses on a heartwarming, entertaining or quirky happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Liza Berger at [email protected].