Can a 100-year-old climb out the window and disappear? How unlikely is the story of Allan Karlsson?

24 January, 2014 in subject Okategoriserade

“He was on the run from his own birthday party, a peculiar situation in his age, not least because he was of a peculiar age.”
The movie ”The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” premiered on Christmas day. It is based on Jonas Jonasson’s bestselling novel with the same title and the storyline is an amazing tale that spans the entire 20th century. It all begins when Allan Karlsson, on the day of his 100th birthday, climbs out the window of his room in a care home and escapes.
The story of Allan Karlsson’s life contains numerous marvelous events. We have scrutinized the events that take place around his 100th birthday. How likely is it that a 100-year old would manage the adventures that Allan Karlsson experiences?
The number of people in Sweden that have reached the age of 100 or older have virtually exploded in just a few decades. Between 1968 and 2011 there was a sixteenfold increase of the number of persons aged hundred or older in Sweden, from 105 to 1770 persons, and the increase is expected to continue. According to a recent study, about half of the children born in Sweden today are expected to live to the age of 100 or older.
Despite this dramatic development, we know very little about the living conditions that characterize life at such an advanced age. In an attempt to explore this knowledge-gap, a group of researchers at the Aging Research Center (Karolinska Institutet & Stockholm University) initiated a new, unique study. During the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012, a nationally representative sample of 274 persons who either had turned 100 or were about to turn 100 during the period were interviewed. This amounted to roughly a third of all persons who turned 100 during the period.
On the basis of these interviews we have now analyzed the likelihood that a potential Allan (or Anja) Karlsson could emerge from this group. The first step of the analysis was to explore to what extent the 100-year olds imbibed alcohol. The reason for Allan Karlssons departure is namely that he is not allowed a schnapps on his birthday. About 40% of the 100-year olds in the study reported that they drink alcohol at least occasionally.
The next step of the analysis was to explore how likely it is that a contemporary 100-year old could physically endure the adventures of Allan Karlsson. For these analyses we developed an “Allan Karlsson-index” of physical function. In order to achieve the highest score on the index the participant had to be able to, by herself: get out of bed, walk up a flight of stairs, walk 500 meters, see well enough to walk outside and be able to carry five kilos. In total, 13% of the 100-year olds managed all of these activities by themselves.
However, like Allan Karlsson, more than half of the 100-year olds lived in care homes. Among them the likelihood of managing the physical activities was much more limited. None of the women, and only a few of the men managed all the activities.
In conclusion, the analyses suggest that the tales of Allan Karlsson’s adventures are not quite as incredible as they may seem at first. However, the tales from his earlier life may be more dubious. But we´ll leave that for other, for the topic more suitable, researchers to analyze.
Contact persons:
Stefan Fors, PhD
Email: stefan.fors@ki.se
Phone: 08-690 68 78
Bettina Meinow, PhD
Email: bettina.meinow@ki.se
Phone: 08-690 58 08
Marti Parker, Professor
Email: marti.parker@ki.se