Page 3 Profile: Misao Okawa, oap

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She’s the world’s oldest woman?

Actually, she became the world’s oldest person in the world yesterday after the former record holder, Jiroemon Kimura, died at the age of 116.

Kimura, the oldest man to have ever lived, died of natural causes to make way for Misao Okawa, who assumed the title aged 115 years and 99 days. Japanese officials confirmed that Kimura died at hospital in his hometown of Kyotango while receiving treatment for pneumonia.

His death leaves Ms Okawa as one of less than a dozen people alive who were born in the 1890s. She was only a toddler at the end of the 19th century, but has since lived through four Japanese emperors and the administrations of 61 prime ministers.

How has she done it?

The late record holder reportedly put his longevity down to waking early, eating small amounts, reading the newspaper and watching parliamentary debates on television, but his female successor has said she’s much less fussy.

Asked for her secret at a Guinness Book of Records event last year, she said it was to “watch out for one’s health,” before nodding off as she was given the award for the world oldest woman. Her favourite food, a potent pickled mackerel, may also have something to do with it.

And they are both Japanese?

Before Kimura, the world’s oldest person was an Italian-American who lived in Iowa. But it is Japan that consistently produces the longest-living people on the planet. According to official estimates, Ms Okawa is one of more than 51,000 centenarians in the country, 87 per cent of whom are women.

Japan’s average life expectancy when she was born was around 44 years; it now stands at 83. Though her success may also come down to simple genetics; Ms Okawa also has two living children, both of which are themselves over 90.