What do you think the secret to living well into old age is? Is it diet, lifestyle – attitude? Check out how the world's oldest EVER people managed to live to such an old age!
Jeanne Louise Calment: 122 years old
Jeanne Louise Calment is the oldest recorded human being – the Frenchwoman died on August 4 1997 at the VERY ripe old age of 122 years and 164 days.
She was born on 21 February 1875 – this is her in 1895!
Aged 22, she married her double second cousin, whose wealth meant that Jeanne could live as a lady of leisure, engaging with hobbies including tennis, swimming, piano and opera. (Much) later on in life, she took up fencing at 80, and continued to ride her bike until she was 100! Her husband died in 1942, aged 73 – her daughter and grandson both died at 36.
She even met van Gogh in 1888, whom she later described as, ‘Dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable’, and, ‘Very ugly, ungracious, impolite, sick’. Ironically, sunflowers were her favourite blooms.
Jeanne lived on her own until she was 110, when a small cooking accident linked to her deteriorating sight led to her being admitted into a nursing home.
She smoked two cigarettes a day from the age of 21, ate a diet rich in olive oil – and also applied it to her skin. She enjoyed port wine and vast amounts of chocolate – 2lb a day – and accredited her calmness to her longevity. Jeanne once said, ‘Always keep your smile. That’s how I explain my long life.’ She also joked that ‘God must have forgotten about me,’ – to explain why she’d lived so long! Jeanne kept her mental clarity until the end.
Misao Okawa: 117 years old
Born on 5 March 1898, Japanese supercentenarian Misao was the world’s oldest living person until she died on 1 April 2015 aged 117 and 27 days – only the fifth person recognised as reaching the age of 117.
Misao’s husband died when he was 36, and she had three children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She credited plenty of sushi and lots of sleep as the secret to a long life – as well as ramen noodles, beef stew and hashed beef. ‘Eating delicious things is a key to my longevity,’ she said.
Susannah Mushatt Jones: 116 years old
American Susannah Mushatt Jones, born 6 July 1899, reached 116 years and 311 days. She died on May 12 2016.
Blind and with poor hearing, Susannah said that she’d never smoked or drunk alcohol, slept 10 hours a night and took regular naps. She used a wheelchair, and took multivitamins alongside medication for her high blood pressure.
Her breakfast would always consist of bacon and eggs, with grits – an porridge-like food based on maize.
Gertrude Weaver: 116 years old
American Gertrude lived to 116 years and 276 days, dying on 6 April 2015. Born on July 4 1898, Gertrude never smoke or drank and made sure she got plenty of sleep. She claimed that, ‘Trusting in the Lord, hard work and loving everybody,’ was the key to her long life – as well as eating her own home-cooked food. She said, ‘Be obedient and follow the laws, and don’t worry about anything. I’ve followed him [God] for many, many years, and I ain’t tired.’
Her son was 94 on the day of her death. Kathy Langley, administrator at the Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation Center, where Gertrude lived, said, ‘She knew that she was the oldest person in the world, and she enjoyed that distinction greatly. She enjoyed every phone call, every letter, every comment — everything was read to her.’
Emma Morano: 116 years old, and counting
Born on 29 November 1899, Emma is the last known living person to have been born in the 19th century, and is currently 116 years old. She was born in Italy and was the eldest of eight siblings – one of her sisters lived to 102.
Emma married in 1926, but separated from her husband in 1938. She never remarried, saying, ‘I didn’t want to be dominated by anyone.’ She ate three raw eggs a day, and enjoyed the odd tipple of grappa – and always looked on the bright side of life!
You’re HOW old?!
Chinese herbalist Li Ching-Yuen died on 6 May 1933 – at, it was claimed, the age of 256! Other disputed records claim that he was, in fact, a mere 197 years old when he passed. His actual date of birth hasn’t been verified, and claims for such a mammoth lifespan are dismissed by experts in gerontology (the study of aging).
Li lived off a diet of herbs and rice wine and practiced martial arts, and was supposedly married 24 times. Bit of a lady’s man, then…
Although, some old men in Li’s village claimed to have known him when they were small boys, and asserted that he was an old man, even then.
A 1933 issue of Time magazine quotes him as saying that the secret to long life is to, ‘Keep a quiet heart, sit like a tortoise, walk sprightly like a pigeon and sleep like a dog.’
In terms of Biblical longevity, Methuselah wins hands down. At his death, Methuselah – Noah’s grandfather – was said to be 969. There are all sorts of speculations at how Methuselah could’ve reached such an age, from the argument that early humans simply had a better diet, to a mistranslation of his age from months to years, to his age merely being an aide to give the impression of a distant past.
Did you know?
– Someone who has lived to 110 or older is called a supercentenarian. The number of living but unverified supercentenarians has been estimated at around 300 to 600. Of those whose age has been verified, nearly all are women.
– It’s thought the maximum human lifespan is normally between 110 and 115 years old.
– Japan claims to have more than 58,000 centenarians – the most in the world.
– According to the World Health Organization, global life expectancy at birth in 2015 was 71.4 years (73.8 years for females and 69.1 years for males).
– In 2015, Japan had the highest overall life expectancy at 84 years old, and Sierra Leone the lowest, at 46. The UK ranked at number 20, at 81 years old.
– The oldest woman to give birth was Daljinder Kaur – who, at 72 years old, delivered a healthy baby boy, Arman, after persuading doctors at India’s National Fertility and Test Tube Baby Centre to give her IVF treatment. And she even breastfeeds! Check out her amazing story.
Check out some more record breakers at the Guinness World Records.