How to live to be really old

From the supercentenarians themselves

Christopher Hooton
Friday 29 May 2015 12:50 BST
An old woman smoking a cigar in Cuba and loving life
An old woman smoking a cigar in Cuba and loving life

It's highly questionable whether you'd want to live well into your hundreds, but if longevity is your thing, how best to achieve a good run?

The best piece of advice: BE A WOMAN.

The ten oldest people ever to have lived were all female, and the list of the 100 verified oldest people contains only a handful of men.

Location-wise, the United States is the place to be for being super old, with a staggering 51 of the Top 100 hailing from the US, while Japan also sees its fair share of supercentenarians.

Beyond that, we only have the testimonies of the hyper-elderly to rely on, which fortunately are plentiful given that reporters nearly always ask them what their secret is.

Jeanne Calment, oldest human ever to have lived, born 1875, died 1997 aged 122 years and 164 days in France

Said to have enjoyed 'an occasional glass of Port wine and a diet rich in olive oil'

Fun fact: She met Van Gogh and described him as "dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable".

Sarah Knauss, second oldest human to have lived, born 1880, died 1999 aged 119 years and 97 days in the US

Didn't divulge a secret, but her passions were said to be watching golf on television, doing needlepoint, and nibbling on milk chocolate turtles, cashews, and potato chips.

Misao Okawa, born 1898, died 2015 aged 117 years and 27 days in Japan

"Eating delicious things is a key to my longevity."

These included ramen noodles and beef stew, as well as hashed beef and rice mackerel sushi.

When asked how she felt about her 117 years on Earth, she quite wonderfully replied: "It seemed rather short."

María Capovilla, born 1889, died 2006 aged 116 years and 347 days in Ecuador

She was said to enjoy painting, embroidery, dancing and walking. In her youth she would also drink fresh milk from the donkeys at her aunt's farm, which relatives credited with helping her achieve such a good age.

She is said never to have smoked, ate regular small meals, and only drank in moderation.

Gertrude Weaver, born 1898, died 2015 aged 116 years and 276 days in the US

She focused less on diet and more on outlook.

"Trusting in the Lord, hard work and loving everybody"

"Kindness. Treat people right and be nice to other people the way you want them to be nice to you."

Tane Ikai, born 1879, died 1995 aged 116 years and 175 days

Scant details. Apparently enjoyed making pottery and sewing.

Elizabeth Bolden, born 1890, died 2006 aged 116 years and 118 days

She shied away from media attention, and when she turned 113 in 2003, a reporter who asked her why she had lived so long was met with the curt reply "I don't know."

The reporter speculated that Bolden just wasn't in the mood to talk that day, given that when one of her daughters kept trying to cover her with a blanket, she said "If you weren't my child, I'd put you over my knee and whoop the [expletive] out of you."

Besse Berry Cooper, born 1896, died 2012 aged 116 years and 100 days

She credited "minding her own business" and avoiding junk food.


Nowadays, the oldest person in the world keeps dying.

Though curiously no recent 'champions' have come close to the ages of those that died in the 90s, improvements in health care have meant that a much larger number of people now reach their hundreds, making the reign of each oldest person often last only days.

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