Background: little is known about the oldest-olds' views on ageing.
Objective: to investigate older people's desire and the reasons they give for wanting to live to 100.
Design: a postal questionnaire, analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Setting: population based in Helsinki, Finland.
Subjects: a random sample (response rate 64%; N = 1,405) of community-dwelling older people (aged 75–96).
Methods: a structured self-completed questionnaire with an open-ended question on the reasons why/why not participants wished/did not wish to live to 100.
Results: one-third (32.9%) of home-dwelling older people wanted to live to be 100. Those who did were older, more often male and self-rated their health better than those who did not. Often the desire for long life was conditional: ‘Yes, if I stay healthy’. Among the reasons is that many were curious to see what would happen. Many stated that they loved life, they had twinkle in their eye or significant life roles. Those who did not want to live extremely long lives gave various rationales: they would become disabled, life would be meaningless, they were reluctant to become a burden to others or they feared loss of autonomy or suffering pain or loneliness. Some people also shared the view that they should not intervene in destiny or they felt that they had accomplished what they wanted in life.
Conclusions: one-third of the oldest-old participants wanted to live to 100. Identifying what motivated them to desire long life could be a resource in their care plans.