Page 3 Profile: Misao Okawa, World’s oldest person


She looks like she’s enjoying her cake.

She has every right to be. On Wednesday Misao Okawa, from Osaka, Japan, celebrated her 116th birthday. She was officially declared the world’s oldest living person last June following the death at 116 of her fellow countryman Jiroemon Kimura.

What do you call someone who is that old?

A supercentenarian. There’s only one criterion to qualify for membership of this elite group: being at least 110 years old. Only about one in 1,000 centenarians lives to becomes a supercentenarian. Okawa is one of just five people still alive – all women – confirmed as having been born in the 19th century. The average life span for women in Japan is just under 85.9 years but Okawa has outlived it by more than 30 years.

What’s her secret?

She says that the key to a long and healthy life is plenty of sleep and a varied diet. She’s exceedingly fond of mackerel sushi but also enjoys beef stew and spaghetti, and has “whatever she likes” every day, according to an employee of the nursing home where she has lived for the past 18 years. She also ensures she gets eight hours sleep every night.

What has her life been like to date?

Born on 5 March 1898, when Queen Victoria was still on the throne in this country, Okawa’s life has spanned three centuries. She married Yukio Okawa in 1919 but has been widow for more than 80 years – he died in 1931. They had three children together: two daughters and a son. Two of them – her son and one daughter – are still alive, aged 94 and 92 respectively. She also has four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She has experienced the advent of motor vehicles, flight and the Internet, and has lived through the reigns of four Japanese emperors, six UK monarchs, and 20 US presidents.

What does she make of being the oldest person alive?

Last year she reportedly said: “Have I really lived that long?”