Busts of President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter at the lobby of the visitor’s center at the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park.

Busts of President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter at the lobby of the visitor’s center at the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Jimmy Carter is within sight of making history yet again. Sunday marks 100 days until Carter would become the first president to witness his own 100th birthday.

Statistically, Americans have a less than one percent chance of living to 100. And Carter faces particularly significant challenges in reaching the milestone. For the past 16 months, he’s been in hospice, end-of-life care that focuses on comfort and foregoes medical intervention. Half of people in hospice die within 17 days, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Yet as Carter inches closer to his 100th birthday on Oct. 1, defying odds and expectations, preparations are gearing up for the landmark event - including a 100-mile bike ride and a film festival in his home state of Georgia. Some oddsmakers are not only taking bets on whether he will make it to his birthday but whether he will live long enough to see the end of the Ukraine war.

“People are rooting for him. He’s an icon,” said Steve Ander, 41, a D.C. data analyst and presidential history buff. To help celebrate Carter, Ander and a friend created an online clock counting down, second by second, to the former president’s birthday.

Ander said he also wanted to shift the public’s focus from how frail Carter is at 99 to how impressive it is that he is such a survivor.

Hundreds of people have already left messages of encouragement on the countdown clock website, including one saying: “I have always remembered you for 3 things, Jimmy; the peanuts, a presidency, and pride in (a) hard day’s work.”

David Chee, a manager for Manifold, a site where people bet on upcoming events, said “there is an obsession” with the fact that Carter, president from 1977 to 1981, is still alive. “It’s almost a meme,” he said.

According to friends and family, Carter continues to have a good appetite and eats meals made from the squash, peppers, corn and other vegetables grown on his boyhood farm, which is now a museum maintained by the National Park Service. They said he still recognizes people and smiles.

For several years he has not been able to walk, and the last time he went outside his home in Plains, Ga., was when he was wheeled into his backyard on Easter Sunday in March.

More recently, Carter has been sleeping or resting for much of the time, sometimes in a favorite recliner in the living room.

Since his improbable rise from peanut farmer to president in 1976, Carter has been an underdog. In 2015, he survived metastatic melanoma, which had spread to his liver and brain. He has long outlived all three siblings, who died of pancreatic cancer.

“Never bet against him,” said Jill Stuckey, a family friend and superintendent of the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park.

To gear up for his birthday, National Park Service employees in Plains are putting together a list of 100 things to help save time, energy and money. Why those things? “Because that’s Jimmy,” Stuckey said. Carter is famously frugal and was known for installing solar panels on the White House roof.

The last time Carter was seen publicly was in November at the memorial service for his wife of 77 years, Rosalynn, who died at 96. He sat under a blanket in his wheelchair, showing the obvious effects of his advanced age, and sparking much public speculation that he would not live long without Rosalynn.

Yet he goes on.

Richard Norton Smith, a presidential historian, said former president Herbert Hoover, who lived to be 90, said lasting so long was revenge on his critics: “I outlived the bastards.” Richard M. Nixon, who resigned over the Watergate scandal, said later in life that “I just get up every morning to confound my enemies.”

Norton Smith said he didn’t know what was driving Carter, but said Carter’s 43-year post-presidency, a record, has greatly enhanced his legacy - and he has lived long enough to see it. Carter has more fans of his post-presidency humanitarian efforts than of his work in the White House. In 2002, Carter won a Nobel Peace Prize.

The tradition of celebrating a president’s 100th birthday goes back to George Washington. On Abraham Lincoln’s 100th birthday, the Gettysburg Address was read aloud in New York City public schools.

Earlier this month on the 100th birthday of former president George H.W. Bush, who died at 94 in 2018, there were three days of events at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Texas, culminating with skydiving by his son, Neil Bush, and other family members. Bush, a military pilot during World War II, had marked his 80th and 90th birthdays by skydiving.

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta is planning a film festival on the centennial because of his interest in movies. While in the White House in 1977, Carter talked about the impact film had on him. “The movies have touched all our lives - mine as a farm boy. It gave me a vision of the outside world,” he said. “I’m sure the first time I saw the White House was in the back seat of a movie theater.”

As governor, he also created the Georgia Film Commission to bring jobs to the state. The state’s film industry now brings in billions of dollars. Hundreds of popular movies and TV series, from “The Hunger Games” to “Stranger Things,” have been filmed in Georgia.

The Carter Presidential Library for years has tied the admission price to Carter’s age, charging 99 cents last year. Officials said this year they look forward to being able to charge a dollar.

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