Oldest Alive

I read in May about Jiroemon Kimura, a Japanese man born in 1897, making him 116 years of age and the oldest person in the world:

Sadly, when looking him up over the 4th of July weekend, I discovered he passed away on June 12. Here’s a few interesting facts about the man:

1. He retired in 1962. This wasn’t because he struck it rich. He simply turned 65.

2. He was the last male survivor of the 19th century, along with 9 women. No more men born in the 1800s, folks.

3. He was born three months before Amelia Earhart.

As of this writing, the oldest person alive today is Misao Okawa, a Japanese woman age 115, born March 5th, 1898:

About Okawa:

1. She married in 1919.

2. As of February 2013, her son and 1 daughter are still alive, both over the age of 90.

3. She is the third oldest verified Japanese person ever, the 30th verified person to reach the age of 115, the 20th oldest verified person ever, and the last verified living person born in 1898.

4. In 12 days, she’ll pass Bettie Wilson, an American who passed away in 2006, to become the 19th oldest person ever.

As you may have noted, these two above are both Japanese. Japan boasts the longest life expectancy of any country in the world. On this list, the U.S. comes in tied for 33rd. Nonetheless, a look at the list of the 100 oldest people ever reveals that half (50) of the names are of Americans. (Japan is second with 19.) Also, on this list the top 8 are all women with #9 belonging to Mr. Kimura above.

The oldest verified person ever? Jeanne Calment of France, born February 21st, 1875 and died August 4th, 1997 at the age of 122!

Here’s a list of the ten oldest people alive today:

Rank Name Sex Birth date Age as of 23 July 2013 Place of residence
1 Misao Okawa F 5 March 1898 115 years, 140 days Japan
2 Jeralean Talley F 23 May 1899 114 years, 61 days United States
3 Susannah Mushatt Jones F 6 July 1899 114 years, 17 days United States
4 Bernice Madigan F 24 July 1899 113 years, 364 days United States
5 Soledad Mexia F 13 August 1899 113 years, 344 days United States[a]
6 Naomi Conner F 30 August 1899 113 years, 327 days United States
7 Emma Morano-Martinuzzi F 29 November 1899 113 years, 236 days Italy
8 Grace Jones F 7 December 1899 113 years, 228 days United Kingdom
9 Yoshino Tanaka F 3 March 1900 113 years, 142 days Japan
Maria Gravigi-De Candia F 3 March 1900 113 years, 142 days Italy

a^ Mexia was born in Mexico.

My final note about the oldest alive comes from this story released just a couple days ago. It’s about a man from Kashmir (the border region straddling India and Pakistan) who claims to have a government-issued certificate dating his birth on March 10th, 1872. That would make him 141 and blowing away the currently-oldest verified person ever.

Guinness World Records has begun to investigate according to the story.

His name is Feroz-ud-Din Mir, a former fruit and nut trader, father of 10, and outliver of four wives (currently married to #5 who is 60 years his junior.)

“Mir can still walk and talk with a broken voice, though his eyesight has almost faded away.” says the piece.

Who knows if his age is accurate. Regardless, he talks of a time that was much different than today. “Speaking of his childhood, Mir said: ‘There was no concept of electricity and other comforts. As life started becoming easy, people couldn’t live easily with each other.'”

Funny how technology also enables our less-becoming motivations. 

The eldest reveal in the most dramatic fashion the imminence of change. They reveal the drastic change in lifestyle from the beginning to the end of 1900s. They reveal physical change in each of us. This is novel because just like we aren’t conscious in our daily lives of things too small too notice–say, on a microscopic level–or things too large such as galactic movement, so does gradual change escape our perception.

It’s easy to forget, or at least have escape one’s conscience, that behind every elderly face is a youthful past and a history full of experiences, relationships, and emotions. Recognizing this helps me appreciate all people as vessels for so much life.


What say you?