A new study has revealed that people over the age of 100 are less likely to be lonely than people aged between 65 and 99, and a thriving Tauranga centenarian might be a picture-perfect example of the discovery.

The Otago University study showed people over 100 were 32 per cent less likely to be lonely than those in the 65 to 99 age bracket, according to the lead author Dr Sharon Leitch, a clinical training fellow from the Dunedin School of Medicine.

The results of the study came as a surprise to Stephanie Clare, chief executive of Age Concern New Zealand.

However, she said loneliness was not something that just elderly people felt.


"There are different stages of life and someone can be lonely at any stage."

A shift in someone's friendship circle or connections can trigger loneliness, so planning for any changes that might occur in someone's life is a good step to take, she said.

"Preparation in any transition is key to success in old age," Clare said. "Staying connected is important."

There was a stigma attached to people admitting that they might be lonely and that needed to change, she said.

"More people should be talking about it."

Bob Buckland, a thriving 100-year-old, with his wife Elsie. Photo / Andrew Warner
Bob Buckland, a thriving 100-year-old, with his wife Elsie. Photo / Andrew Warner

While it was hard to make generalisations about a certain age group, people all over the world were living longer and had a longer lease of life into old age, according to social gerontologist Carole Gordon.

"People are more well in general," she said.

Gordon said there was a generational factor that might influence the findings: While a 100-year-old might not think of themselves as being lonely, someone who is 65 might feel that way.


A person's own perception of themselves and their "life story" also plays a part.

"People who live beyond the normal age range are usually very resilient and have a strong protection of their life," said Gordon.

"They have a commitment to staying connected and healthy.

"They wouldn't classify themselves as old."

Earlier this year, Tauranga man Bob Buckland celebrated his 100th birthday. His longevity has come as somewhat of a surprise, especially after having a heart attack at age 42.

"I don't know how I've reached 100 actually, it's a bit of a miracle really," said Buckland.

The war veteran has kept active throughout his life. In his younger years, he played golf and table tennis. When he was 75, he took up tenpin bowling and played as a pair with his wife, Elsie.

Buckland ended up competing in national championships and won gold medals on numerous occasions. He kept bowling for more than 20 years and only gave it up when his back started to trouble him at 96.

"We've had a very good, happy life together. Elsie has been by my side throughout our marriage," said Buckland.

The couple has "a very close and happy family," with two sons, four granddaughters, and seven great-granddaughters.

Buckland's granddaughter, Lisa Adamson, said he was a model of good health.

"Obviously he still has his own aches and pains - but he's even got his own teeth!"

While Buckland has hearing aids, he doesn't have any issues with communicating.

"He's all there - mentally and physically."

Her grandfather is very independent - he still has his license and keeps busy cooking, cleaning, gardening and looking after his wife, Elsie.

"He's always so up and positive," said Adam.