Saskatchewan has highest rate of people living past 100

Compared to the rest of Canada, Saskatchewan has the highest rate of people who live past their 100th birthdays.

According to the 2016 census, there's 375 centenarians living in the Prairie province

Saskatchewan has highest rate of people living past 100

6 years ago
Duration 0:47
On a per capita basis, Saskatchewan has more people who've celebrated their 100th birthday than any other province

People in Saskatoon have regularly mistaken Florence Tetreault for a woman two decades younger.

At 103, Tetreault plays bridge several times a week. She regularly attends mass and takes in most of the sewing and mending for residents at the Franklin Retirement Community.

"Of course they're surprised," said Tetreault. "Very much surprised."

She's one of 375 centenarians in Saskatchewan, according to the 2016 census. 

On a per capita basis, Saskatchewan has more people who've celebrated their 100th birthday than any other province. Manitoba is second, while Alberta has the fewest centenarians.

"I think it's the climate," said Tetreault. "We haven't got hurricanes, we haven't got floods. The air is good."

The 2016 census showed that Saskatchewan has more centenarians per capita than any other Canadian province.

'Live for the future'

The fourth of 10 children, Tetreault was one of the first babies born in the newly formed town of St. Brieux, Sask., in 1913. Her father ran a livery business, and the family moved to a farm several kilometres away when she was a child. She met her husband, Lawrence Tetreault, during a skating party in the 1920s. 

Tetreault attributes her longevity to a life spent outdoors in fresh air, advances in medicine and a positive attitude.

"Losing your mother, your father, your husband and your marriage, if you're going to dwell on that, it's going to make you sad," she said. "But I don't. Leave the past go by and live for the future.

"That's the secret, sure it is. Absolutely." 

Lawrence and Florence Tetreault were married in 1939, and moved to Saskatoon following the Second World War. Their two sons, Maurice and Armand, now live in Manitoba. (Submitted by Florence Tetreault)

'Amazing resilience' in seniors on the Prairies

Tetreault is currently the oldest member of the Saskatoon branch of the "Century Club," run by the Saskatoon Council on Aging. 

As the club's volunteer chair, Karen Heise has collected and compiled life stories from more than 300 club members. (Membership is open to anyone 90 years and over.)

Over time, she's noted a number of similarities in Century Club members — most, for example, appear to have grown up on farms, where they became accustomed to high levels of physical activity early in life. 

"They have an amazing resilience, an amazing ability to persevere through some really tough challenges," said Heise. "They're really strong individuals."

Heise said there are Century Club chapters across the province.

The number of centenarians in Saskatchewan has been growing in recent years.

Number of Sask. centenarians nearly doubles 

Statistics Canada data shows the number of Saskatchewan residents who have celebrated their 100th birthday has almost doubled since 2001.

Elaine Redekop, who works at The Palisades and Villa Royale retirement homes in Saskatoon, says over the past decade, the average age of residents at both facilities has risen to over 90 years old.

Last year, she helped plan celebrations for six residents at The Palisades who were marking their 100th birthdays. Three still live there. One has since died, and two others now require higher levels of care.

"These people, they don't give up," said Redekop. "They always have something to do and someone to do it with."

'I'm treated royally,' says Florence Tetreault, seen here during her 100th birthday celebration in November 2013. (Submitted by Florence Tetreault)

Tetreault now in her 4th decade of retirement

Tetreault worked as a matron for the Saskatoon Police Service through the 1960s and 1970s. After retirement, she took up synchronized swimming and golf, and won a medal at the 1990 Saskatchewan Senior Games.
Florence and Lawrence Tetreault were married for nearly 65 years before he died at the age of 91. (Submitted by Florence Tetreault)

She and her husband both moved into the Franklin Retirement Community in their later years. After he died in 2003, Tetreault made a point of continuing to paint and do artwork, even using her sewing machine to embroider portraits of nature and woodland scenes.

"I do a lot of reading. And when I get tired of reading, I go to the sewing machine," Tetreault said, pointing out quilts around her apartment that have won prizes both locally and nationally.

She said her life has been full of ups and downs, but she doesn't allow herself to brood.

"You can get yourself into a real sad state, and be down on yourself and down on everybody else, and be miserable," she said.

"It's gone. Bury it. Forget about it and live for the future."

'I used to be a good dancer,' says Florence Tetreault, seen here in 2013 with her son Maurice at her 100th birthday party. She says her dancing days have ended, as she must now rely on a motorized scooter and a walker to get around. (Submitted by Florence Tetreault)