Our periodic round-up of super-centenarians and their top tips for a long and happy life
Another generation of supercentenarians has been in the news since our last roundup [ FT346:18-20]. The oldest person whose age is beyond doubt is still the Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 aged 122 years and 164 days, though (as usual) there are older claimants. Centenarians are constantly asked for the “secret’ of their longevity, and their answers are frequently bizarre. Mary Charlton (104) of Newcastle insisted her longevity was down to a bacon sandwich every morning, while Mabel Glover (106) of Macclesfield said her secret was taking two aspirins every day. Kay Travis (107) of Sheffield drinks a daily glass of whisky and Lily Welch (100) of South Tyneside said a daily packet of pork scratchings was her “elixir of life”. John Mansfield (108), possibly the oldest man in the UK before his death in 2016, put his longevity down to drinking vinegar. Grace Jones, a retired milliner from Broadway in Worcestershire, turned 111 on 17 September 2017. She has had a glass of Scotch whisky every night before bed for the last 58 years, and swears by it. According to her daughter, “She doesn’t worry. She’s always said, ‘Worry doesn’t do you any good at all’.” Another Grace Jones was almost 114 when she died in 2013 [ FT346:19].
D.Express, 2 Dec 2016; Sun, 25 May, 17 Aug; D.Mirror, 12 Aug, 19 Sept; insideedition.com, 18 Sept; Metro, 22 Nov 2017.
THE LEAGUE TABLE
Those marked with an asterisk have had their longevity claims accepted by the Gerontology Research Group in Los Angeles and Guinness World Records. The minimum requirement is official documentation from before the claimant turns 20.
MBAH GOTHO, 146+
Saparman Sodimedjo, aka Mbah Ghoto (‘Grandpa Ghoto’), died in his hometown of Sragen in central Java on 30 April 2017. According to his papers, he was born on 31 December 1870. Even though Indonesia only started recording births in 1900, officials insisted his residency card, which had his birth date on it, was valid, based on documents and interviews with him. A heavy smoker until the end, he outlived four wives, 10 siblings and all his children. His last wife died in 1988. In his village, he was a local hero famous for telling great stories about the wars against Japan and the Dutch colonisers. One of his earliest (alleged) memories was watching the opening of the Gondang sugar factory in 1880, when he was 10. “Life is only a matter of accepting your destiny wholeheartedly,” he said. “I have wanted to die for a long time.” He was buried close to the graves of his children. His tombstone had been ready, leaning against his house, for 24 years. The oldest man who ever lived, whose age is verified, is Jiroemon Kimura from Japan, who died on 12 June 2013, aged 116 years and 54 days.
CELINO VILLANUEVA JARAMILLO, 121+
When Marta Ramirez agreed at the age of 63 to take in a destitute nonagenarian, she did not see it as a long-term imposition. His house had burned down, he had no one else and he looked frail. “He was 99, I didn’t think he’d be around that much longer,” Ramirez recalled. She is now 85, and her long-term guest, Celino Villanueva Jeramillo, is 121 – probably the world’s oldest living man. He lost his birth certificate in the fire, but the birth date on his ID card reads 1896. “Checking our records, Celino Villanueva Jeramillo was effectively born on 25 July 1896,” said Jacqueline Salinas, one of the heads of the demographic department at Chile’s Office of Statistics. (We do wonder what that “effectively” means.) Jaramillo was born in the town of Rio Bueno. For the last 30 years or so of his working life, he was an agricultural labourer for a landowner, Ambrosio Toledo, who dismissed him when he turned 80. He moved to the coastal village of Mehuin, renting a shack with a dirt floor and a fireplace in the middle, over which he would hang his fish to smoke (a loose ember set the shack alight).
DHARAM PAL SINGH, 119+
According to his passport, Indian farmer Dharam Singh was born on 6 October 1897, which would have made him 119 when he hoped to fly to Perth in order to run in the World Masters Athletics Championships in October 2016. He had paid his entry fee, but did not have money to buy an airline ticket. He said his longevity secret was milk, herbal chutney and seasonal fruit. He avoided butter, fried food, sugar, tobacco, alcohol, tea, and coffee. He began running while herding cows as a teenager, and still tried to run four to five kilometres every day.
* VIOLET BROWN (NÉE MOSSE), 117 YRS, 189 DAYS
This mother of six was born in Jamaica on 10 March 1900 and died on 15 September 2017. She became the oldest verified living person on the death of Emma Morano (below). She credited her long life to eating cows’ feet, not drinking rum and reading the Bible. Her son Harland Fairweather had died before her, on 19 April 2017, aged a mere 97. Following her death, her longevity title passed to a Japanese woman, Nabi Taijima, born 4 August 1900. Another Japanese woman, Chiyo Miyako, was born on 2 May 1901, while the Italian Giuseppina Projetto was born on 30 May 1902. Kristina Nagornaya from Ukraine claims to be 117.
* EMMA MORANO, 117 YRS, 137 DAYS
Emma Morano was born in Piedmont, Italy, on 29 November 1899 and died inVerbania on 15 April 2017. She kicked out her violent husband in 1938, shortly after the death of their only child. She never married again and worked in a factory till she was 65. She has eaten three eggs every day (two of them raw) since she was 20, when a doctor recommended them to counter anæmia. She also ate small quantities of raw minced meat and enjoyed a regular glass of grappa. She outlived her eight brothers and sisters, including one who reached the age of 102.
* ADELE DUNLAP, 114 YRS, 55 DAYS
Following the death of Goldie Michelson (113) of Worcester, Massachusetts, in July 2016,
He was a local hero, famous for telling stories about the wars
Adele Dunlap was recognised as the oldest person in the US. She was born in Newark, New Jersey, on 12 December 1902, and died in Flemington, NJ, on 5 February 2017, whereupon the US longevity title passed to Delphine Gibson (113) of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.
* YISRAEL KRISTAL, 113 YRS, 330 DAYS
Yisrael Kristal celebrated his bar mitzvah in Haifa, Israel, on 6 October 2016, his birthday in the Hebrew calendar, in the presence of his two surviving children, along with grandchildren and nearly 30 great-grandchildren. The Jewish coming-of-age ceremony was a century late; it had not taken place in 1916 because his mother had died three years earlier, while his father had been drafted into the Russian army and in 1919 died of typhus.
Yisrael was born Izrel Icek Krysztal in Maleniec, near Zarnów in what is now Poland, on 15 September 1903 and was recognised as the world’s oldest man by Guinness World Records in March 2016. The odds had been massively stacked against his survival (see FT346:20). He become a master confectioner in Łód , married Chaja Feige Frucht in 1928 and had two children. In 1940 the Nazis moved the family to the Łód ghetto, where the children died. In 1944, Yisrael and Chaja were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Chaja was murdered. Yisrael survived as a slave labourer there and in other camps before being liberated by the Red Army in 1945, when he weighed just 37kg (82lb). He thanked his rescuers by making them sweets.
Yisrael returned to Łód , married another Holocaust survivor, and in 1950 moved to Haifa with his second wife and their son. Here he built up another confectionary business, sired a daughter, and died on 11 August 2017. He enjoyed daily helpings of pickled herring and as a younger man in his 80s had a taste for wine and beer. His daughter Shula Kuperstoch said: “Despite all that he went through… he always saw only light and good in everything.”
FRANCISCO NUNEZ OLIVERA, 113 YRS, 47 DAYS
This man might have been the world’s oldest on the death of Yisrael Kristal, but he was not recognised as such by the Gerontology Research Group, as his birth records were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. He was born, allegedly, on 13 December 1904 in the village of Bienvenida in Badajoz, south-west Spain, and died on 29 January 2018, in the same village. The retired farmer had four children, nine grandchildren and 15 greatgrandchildren. He fought in the Rif War in the early 1920s between Spain and the Berber tribes in Morocco, and went out for daily walks alone until he was 107. He started to read again aged 98 after a cataract operation, one of only two occasions he went to hospital. Relatives attributed his longevity to a diet based on vegetables he grew himself and a daily glass of red wine. His regular breakfast was sponge cake made with olive oil and a glass of milk. He was known as Marchena because of his likeness to a Spanish flamenco singer who used that stage name, and was one of 30 people over the age of 90 among the 2,300 inhabitants of Bienvenida.
His title of world’s oldest man passed to Masazou Nonaka, who was born on 25 July 1905. Last December saw the death of Don Jesus Castillo Rangel in Mexico, allegedly at the age of 121; and in March 2016 came news of a Brazilian called Joao Coelho de Souza, who was 131, according to his birth certificate. SOURCES
Brown: (Queensland) Courier Mail, 21 April; Sunday Express, 17 Sept 2017. De Souza: D.Mail, 9 Mar 2016. Dunlap: [AP] 9 Feb 2017. Ghoto: D.Mirror, 2 Jan, 1 May; BBC News, 1 May; theguardian.com, 2 May 2017.
Jaramillo: Guardian, 6 Nov 2017. Kristal: Int. Herald Tribune, 8 Oct 2016; BBC News, 11 Aug; irishexaminer.com, 12 Aug 2017.
Morano: [R] Irish Times, 17 April 2017. Nagornaya: Metro, 22 Sept 2017. Olivera: metro.co.uk, 30 Jan; D.Mail, 31 Jan 2018. Rangel: D.Mirror, 22 Dec 2017. Singh: Int. Herald Tribune, 21 Nov 2016.
LEFT: Mbah Gotho celebrating his 146th birthday in December 2016.