The world's oldest person, Sakhan Dosova, a mother of 10 from Kazakhstan, celebrating her 130th birthday tomorrow, puts her longevity down to her sense of humour. "I don't have any special secret," she says, modestly. "I've never taken pills, and I've never eaten sweets." Sounds simple, doesn't it?
However, it's not the only theory. Supercentenarians from the Scottish glens to the Japanese islands are quick to come up with different ways to defy the Grim Reaper.
Gertrude Baines (115), who lives in Los Angeles, was thought to be the world's oldest person until Dosova tottered out of the woodwork (Dosova's age came to light during a census earlier this year). Baines simply thanked God for her time on earth when interviewed by CNN in 2006. Portuguese widow Maria de Jesus, who died in January at the age of 115, credited a life free from cigarettes, alcohol and meat (though she often gorged herself on rice pudding or ice cream).
George Burns, the American radio comedian and vaudeville star who died in 1996, aged 100, thought his work was important. "Age means nothing to me," he used to say. "I can't get old. I'm working. I was old when I was 21 and out of work." Bob Taggart, 109, the oldest man in Scotland, told Scotland on Sunday last year that the tunes of Engelbert Humperdinck spiced up his life. "Even around the house, I would love to sing his songs. It helped keep me young."
There are some who even make a living out of their senior looks. Maybe that's the secret? Daphne Selfe, still modelling for Dolce & Gabbana at 80, earns up to £1,000 for a day's work. "I don't feel a day over 60. It's fantastic, it's fun and keeps me young," she says. "I'll continue modelling until they stop asking." Carmen Dell'Orifice, known by the fashion press as a "classic model", is also still working at 77.
So what do the scientists say? "I think the most sensible thing to do is choose your parents very carefully in terms of socio-economic status and genetic background," says Pamela Holmes, head of the healthy ageing programme at Help the Aged.
"Life expectancy is increasing for men and women, but healthy life expectancy is not keeping up. People can be ill for many years. I don't think there is any secret to long life. The straightforward lifestyle advice would be to keep physically active to build up resilience to ill health. And obviously good nutrition – a broad and varied diet doesn't hurt."
But perhaps, instead of heeding the advice of every freak of nature teetering on the precipice, we'd do well to remember the words of Sir Clement Freud, who once remarked: "If you give up smoking, drinking and loving, you don't actually live longer - it just seems like it." Rob Sharp
And now, children, it's time for Poo Peter
Tuesday wasn't the first time that TV viewers watched a pile of crap on Blue Peter. Many traumatised children witnessed Lulu the elephant defecate all over the set (and John Noakes) in 1969. But it's certainly the first time that the 50-year-old children's programme ever encouraged young tricksters to make a fake, April Fool's Day turd out of a plastic bottle, papier mâché and some brown paint (the co-presenter Andy Akinwolere extracted a finished model from a cupboard with the words, "Here's one I made earlier.")
Did Biddy Baxter, the show's veteran editor and éminence grise, know about this tasteful initiative? Is she happy to have her brainchild renamed "Poo Peter" by The Sun? I suspect that, had she known, she'd have pointed out that, far from resembling any turd in the known world, the sticky-backed-plastic version looked like a slab of bread-and-butter pudding. If a thing's worth doing, she would probably have reminded the giggling presenters, it's worth not making it look like shite. John Walsh
Madoff's only winner
Bernard Madoff's victims can only look on in envy. A New York builder made a return of 16,000 per cent by trusting his money to the Wall Street fraudster – when he played the state lottery. Ralph Amendolaro turned a $9 stake into a $1,500 pay-out by betting on the last three digits of Madoff's prison number, 61727-054, after it was splashed in the New York Daily News when he was jailed this month.
Now Amendolaro, 50, is looking over his shoulder. "Madoff (left) will probably be looking to charge me on the investment that I made off him".
Amendolaro certainly has no intention of risking his windfall with a dodgy financier. He's headed to Las Vegas to gamble the winnings. Stephen FoleyReuse content