A Full Life: These People Set Guinness Records For Longevity

Humans have been searching for the secret to a long life for centuries. Unfortunately, there’s no magic elixir or fountain of youth. Longevity is usually a… Aisha Abdullah - February 24, 2023

Humans have been searching for the secret to a long life for centuries. Unfortunately, there’s no magic elixir or fountain of youth. Longevity is usually a result of some mix of genetics, societal structure, life choices, and chance. The supercentenarians who live beyond 110 years can tell us a lot about living a long, fulfilling life. These are the Guinness record-holders for longevity and what we can learn from them.

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The Secret to Long Life, According to the Longest Living People

What is the key to longevity? If you were to ask the world’s oldest people that question, you’re guaranteed to get a wide range of answers. Being a woman helps. The 21 longest-living people in history are all women. Some supercentenarians will tell you that eating right, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding alcohol is the key to long life. Others will say eating the foods you love and having fun make life worth living. Long-lived parents say their children (grandchildren and great-grandchildren) keep them young. Childless people say the opposite. Many credit faith, family, and hard work with their longevity. Several of the longest-living women recommend not stressing too much. One thing seems to be constant: a positive attitude and a sense of humor never hurt when it comes to long life.

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Japan and the U.S. Have the Most World’s Oldest Record Holders

Over a quarter of the world’s oldest people are from the U.S. But Japan has the highest proportion of supercentenarians, more than twice the rate of the U.S. Also, four of the ten oldest validated supercentenarians are from Japan. Only eight countries have living supercentenarians, and Japan, the U.S., and Colombia have the highest number at two each. The list of longest-living people is overwhelmingly female, with the oldest man not even breaking the top 20. The oldest woman ever is from France, which has 11 of the world’s oldest people. The oldest man is from Japan, which has 43 of the world’s oldest people. Spain, Italy, Mexico, and the United Kingdom are also highly represented.

Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters

No One in Recorded History Has Lived Longer Than Jeanne Calment (122 Years Old)

At her death in 1997, Jeanne Calment was the oldest person in history and the only person known to have lived longer than 120 years. Born in Provence, France, in 1875, her long, quiet life was punctuated by extraordinary experiences. She was a teenager when the Eiffel Tower was built and claimed to have met artist Vincent Van Gogh around the same time. She began smoking in her early 20s and continued the daily habit for nearly a century. Calment enjoyed wine and chocolate and attributed her long life to a diet rich in olive oil. She was an avid musician and athlete who played piano and tennis and went mountain climbing and hunting with her husband. The supercentenarian became the oldest actor in history when she appeared in the French film Vincent and Me at 114. Calment was reportedly in good help until her death at a staggering 122 years and 164 days old.

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María Branyas Morera Is the World’s Oldest Living Person (116 Years Old & Counting)

At just shy of 116 years old, María Branyas Morera is the oldest person currently living. She gained the title in January after the death of Lucile Randon. Early in the pandemic, Maria contracted COVID-19 when the disease tore through Spain. Miraculously, the 113-year-old survived—and it wasn’t the first time. As a girl, Branyas survived a fall that left her deaf in one ear. She survived the Spanish flu, two world wars, and a bout with pneumonia at 93. Born in San Fransico to Spanish parents, she served as a nurse in the Spanish Civil War. Well into her 90s, Branyas traveled the world, took up new hobbies, and even learned to play piano at age 108. As of January, she remains in good health and considers every new year “a gift, a humble celebration, a beautiful journey, a moment of happiness.”

Reuters / Kane Tanaka / The Sun

Kane Tanaka Credited Good Food and Math for Her Long Life (119 Years Old)

Kane Tanaka lived to 119 years and 107 days, making her the second oldest person in history after Jeanne Calment. Born in Japan in 1903, her parents feared that their premature baby would not survive long. But survive she did, overcoming battles with two different cancers, including one at 103 years old. Tanaka is the longest-living Japanese person on record, an impressive feat in a country known for the longevity of its citizens. At 19, she married a man she had never met before their wedding day. They remained together until his death after 71 years of marriage. Tanaka was known for her sweet tooth, favoring chocolate and soda. She kept her mind sharp as she aged by practicing math and calligraphy and playing the strategy board game Reversi.

AP / The Morning Call / Cesar L. Laure

Sarah Knauss Loved to Keep Life Sweet (119 Years Old)

Just 10 days younger than Kane Tanaka was when she died, Sarah Knauss was the oldest American ever and the third oldest person in history. Knauss was a dedicated crafter who learned to crochet as a girl and continued the hobby well into her 110s. The supercentenarian was born in 1880, before the invention of the steam turbine, the ballpoint pen, and the zipper. She lived long enough to meet six generations of her descendants. She had only one child, a daughter who lived to 101. Knauss delighted in sweets, so much so that she celebrated her 100th birthday with gifts of over 20 pounds of candy. When asked how she lived so long, she advised people to work hard and keep busy, “not worry about how old you are.”

Franck Bessière

Lucile Randon Was the Oldest Person to Survive COVID-19 (118 Years Old)

Nothing about Lucile Randon’s life was ordinary. She was born in Alès, France, in 1904 alongside a twin sister Lydie, who tragically died before reaching age 2. Lucile nearly died as well but ultimately pulled through and survived for another 117 years. At 19, she converted to Catholicism. After working as a governess, teacher, and missionary at a hospital in Vichy, France, she became a nun at 40. Now known as Sister André, she dedicated her life to serving orphans and the elderly. Always defying the odds, Sister André became the oldest person to beat surviving COVID-19, beating the disease just before her 117th birthday. She had previously been declared the oldest nun in history. Sister André died of natural causes a few weeks shy of her 119th birthday.

Jiji Press / Kikai Town /AFP

Nabi Tajima Was the Last Living Link to the 19th Century (117 Years Old)

When Nabi Tajima died in 2018, the world lost its last living connection to the 19th century. She was born on Kikaijima Island in 1900, before the introduction of the first car, vacuum cleaner, and teddy bear. Tajima spent her entire life in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture, where she led a quiet existence. During the 117 years and 260 days, she lived, the world underwent enormous change. She was born before radio receivers and television and lived to see the rise of smartphones, electric cars, and virtual reality. In the decades between, she survived the Spanish flu and World War II, raised nine children, and welcomed 160 descendants. Tajima remained in good health up to her death. She was fond of eating delicious food and traditional Japanese hand-dancing and credited her long life to getting lots of sleep.

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The Longest Living Canadian Was an Outdoor-Loving Vegetarian (117 Years Old)

Born in Quebec, Canada, in 1880, Marie-Louise Meilleur is the oldest Canadian on record. She had a huge family, including 12 children and 226 grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, and great-great-great-grandchildren. On her death at 117 years and 230 days, she had outlived both of her husbands and eight of her children. Meilleur attributed her longevity to many different sources over the years. She most frequently credited her hard work, faith, love of family, and good sense of humor for her long years. Her vegetarian diet and love of being outdoors, especially fishing, may also have helped keep her young. But Meilleur also enjoyed red wine and smoked cigarettes until at least her 90s. In her later years, she lived in a nursing home with one of her sons. To this day, she is the sixth oldest person in history.

Violet Mosse Foundation

Violet Brown Lived So Long She Made Her Son a Record-Holder Too (117 Years Old)

Known affectionately as “Aunt V,” Violet Mosse Brown of Jamaica was one of the last survivors of the 19th century. Born in 1900, the supercentenarian is also believed to be the last living subject of the British Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901. Brown was known for her tireless work in her church, where she served as an organist for eight decades. The oldest of her six children died at age 97, just a few months before his mother, and holds the record for the oldest person with a living parent. In interviews, Brown said there was no diet secret diet behind her long life, although she did note that she avoided pork, chicken, and rum. Above all, she considered her faith and service to her church to be key to her old age, which she wore with great pride. Brown died in 2017 at the age of 117 years and 189 days.

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The Oldest Italian Ate Two Raw Eggs a Day for Nearly a Century (117 Years Old)

Emma Morano broke a few records during her long life. She was the oldest Italian and the last known living person born in the 1800s. After being diagnosed with anemia at age 20, she began a daily ritual of consuming three eggs (two raw and one cooked) every day, a habit she continued throughout her life. Although she credits the eggs for her long life, genetics almost certainly played a role. Morano lived 117 years and 137 days, but she was hardly the only long-lived person in her family. Several family members lived well into their 90s. Her younger sister Angela lived to 102, making the two the oldest siblings in Italy. In addition to diet and good genes, Morano avoided drugs, drank a glass of brandy, and remained single for most of her life after separating from her abusive husband shortly after the death of her only child. Despite these hardships, she remained optimistic about life.

Gerontology Research Group

Chiyo Miyako’s Family Called this 117-Year-Old “The Goddess”

Known as “the Goddess” to loved ones, Chiyo Miyako was the first of her parents’ five children to survive childhood. After completing school, she married and was able to travel due to her her husband’s career with Japanese National Railways. The couple had two children who both died in their 50s. Miyako spent much of her later life with her grandchildren and kept active by practicing calligraphy, a talent she learned as a girl. Loved ones knew her as a very talkative and kind person who loved food, especially sushi and eel. Miyako remained in good physical and mental shape well into her 110s, when she was still known to write haikus and produce calligraphic pieces. She died in 2018 at the age of 117 years and 81 days.

NBC News

After 117 Years, Misao Okawa Still Felt That Life Is Short

As one of the four Japanese women verified as the world’s oldest people, Misao Okawa’s life spanned three centuries. The daughter of a kimono maker, Okawa spent most of her long life in Osaka. In that city, she worked in her family’s kimono shop, met her husband, and raised their three young children after his tragic death at 36. She also died in Osaka just under a month after she turned 117. Two of her children are reportedly still living and are over 100 years old. Okawa was active and able to walk without assistance until she was at least 110. In an interview on her 117th birthday, she said that her life seemed “rather short.” The supercentenarian also couldn’t tell you the secret to her longevity. She just got plenty of sleep and ate what she liked.

Diario Norte

Brazil’s Oldest Person Survived Two Global Pandemics (116 Years Old)

Although she lived for nearly 117 years, Francisca Celsa dos Santos of Cascavel, Brazil, was never named the world’s oldest person. In fact, she was ​​the oldest person in history not to receive the coveted title due to two other supercentenarians, Kane Tanaka and Lucile Randon, who outlived her. But Celsa dos Santos is still recognized as the 11th oldest person in history as well as the oldest Brazilian and oldest Latin American on record. Born in 1904, Celsa dos Santos survived the deadly Spanish flu that killed 50 million people worldwide and the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a higher death toll in Brazil than in almost any other country. She and her husband had six children, three of who cared for their mother in her later life. In the words of one of her granddaughters, “She was synonymous with love, with the will to live, with everything good that can be imagined.”

Victor Proanio / AP

María Capovilla Defied Death at Age 100 (116 Years Old)

Born in 1889, María Esther de Capovilla was the last living link to the 1880s. She grew up in a wealthy family in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She was a musical child who enjoyed playing piano and, as a girl, spent time on her family’s farm. Capovilla married an Austrian military officer in 1917, and the two had five children, two of who she outlived. At the age of 100, Capovilla became so ill that she was read her last rites. But she miraculously recovered and lived to 116 years in good health. Maria and her family attributed her longevity to drinking fresh milk on the family farm as a girl. She was also devoutly religious, never smoked, and only drank in moderation. Capovilla held the title of South America’s oldest person until Brazilian Francisca Celsa dos Santos broke her record—and died the very next day.

Joseph C. Lin / TIME

Susannah Mushatt Jones Never Drank and Ate Bacon Every Day (116 Years Old)

Susannah Mushatt Jones’s life was one of overcoming incredible odds. Born in Alabama in 1899, she spent her childhood working as a sharecropper along with the rest of her family in the fields that only a few decades before had been worked by slaves. Jones was determined to have a better life, which she sought through education. But her family wasn’t unable to afford college. So setting aside her dream of being a teacher, Jones moved to New York for better work opportunities. She used her wages to set up a scholarship fund for students at her former high school, so others wouldn’t be denied the opportunity to pursue higher education. Jones said her long life was due to sleeping 10 hours a night and remaining single after her short-lived marriage. At 116 years and 311 days, she ate bacon for breakfast daily and never drank, smoked, or partied.


Gertrude Weaver Had One of the Shortest Reigns As the World’s Oldest Person (116 Years Old)

Although she only held the title for five days, Gertrude Weaver made an immediate impression as the world’s oldest person. Born on Independence day in 1898, Weaver was the daughter of a former slave whose family worked as sharecroppers in Arkansas. She married at 17 and had four children, including a son who lived to 97. Weaver lived at home and remained active until she was 109. Even in her last years, she was relatively healthy and independent. Weaver’s life spanned three centuries and oversaw enormous social change. As the daughter of a former slave, Weaver would grow up to vote twice for the first black president of the United States. She lived to 116 years and 276 days, crediting four things for her longevity: faith, hard work, loving everyone, and kindness.

Raimundo Mascarenhas

Antonia da Santa Cruz Was One of the Oldest People to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine (116 Years Old)

Not every family can boast of three living members who are centenarians, but that wasn’t the only thing that made Antonia da Santa Cruz’s family extraordinary. Santa Cruz lived her entire life in Bahia, Brazil. She raised a dozen children, including an adopted nephew. Two of her siblings reached 100, including a sister who was 107 when Santa Cruz died. In 2021, Santa Cruz became the oldest person in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, although Kane Tanaka would break that record seven months later. At her death in 2022, at the age of 116 years and 276 days, Santa Cruz had at least 68 grandchildren, 110 great-grandchildren, and 35 great-great-grandchildren.

Gerontology Wiki

Tane Ikai Was One of the Last Two People Born in the 1870s (116 Years Old)

Born in Aichi, Japan, in 1879, Tane Ikai held a few titles during her long life. She was the oldest woman ever from Asia until Misao Okawa surpassed her. She was also the first Asian person in recorded history to reach the age of 116 years old. Five other people, all from Japan, would follow her in this feat over the next two decades. Along with Jeanne Calment, Ikai was one of the last two people born in the 1870s to die. Ikai married at 20 but separated from her husband 18 years later. They had four children, all of whom she outlived. Ikai was active, enjoyed crafts, and subsisted on a simple diet of porridge. She suffered a stroke at 99, then a second 10 years later. Ikai died of kidney failure at 116 years and 175 days.

Nicolas Parent

Staying Single and Childfree May Have Kept Jeanne Bot Young (116 Years Old)

The youngest of the three French women among the world’s 20 oldest people, Jeanne Bot lived to an impressive 116 years and 128 days. Born in Mont-Louis, France, in 1905, Bot worked for five decades as a bookkeeper in a car garage. There aren’t many interviews with Bot, but some have credited her longevity to the fact that she never married or had kids. She lived a quiet, simple life and remained mostly independent until around 113. Her health began to decline in her later years before she passed away in 2021. According to her nephew, she was grateful to have reached 100 years old and considered every year beyond that to be a bonus.

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At Her Death, Elizabeth Bolden Had 562 Living Descendants (116 Years Old)

Known as Mamma Lizzie to her many descendants, Elizabeth Bolden was born in Tenessee in 1890 to former slaves. She and her husband raised seven children on their farm near Memphis. Bolden lived to see six generations of her descendants and, at her death in 2006, had 562 living descendants, including 75 great-great-great-great-grandchildren. Bolden, along with Sarah Knauss, Susannah Mushatt Jones, and Gertrude Weaver, is one of the longest-living Americans in history. She held the title of the world’s oldest person until her death at 116 years and 118 days. According to her surviving family, Bolden had a serious sweet tooth and lived a full life.

August Chronicle

As a Young Teacher, Besse Cooper Fought for Women’s Right to Vote (116 Years Old)

Growing up in Sullivan County, Tennessee, Besse Cooper was always a dedicated student and avid reader. After graduating high school, she joined the suffragette movement, fighting for women’s right to vote. During this time, she also began working as a teacher and met her husband in Georgia. The two had four children. After her husband’s death in 1963, Cooper never remarried and remained a widow for nearly 50 years until her death in 2012. She lived to 116 years and 100 days and had perhaps the most unique explanation for her longevity. In an interview with Guinness World Records, Cooper said that her key to long life was, “I mind my own business.” One of Cooper’s launched a charity in her name the year after her death to help other supercentenarians.


Jiroemon Kimura Is the Longest Living Man in History (116 Years Old)

You’ve probably noticed that this list is very female-dominated. That’s because around 95 percent of supercentenarians are women. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t men who also live extraordinarily long lives. For example, Jiroemon Kimura was the oldest man ever. Although he was more than six years younger than the oldest woman, Jeanne Calment, he is still the 22nd oldest person in history. Kimura was also the only man in history to reach the age of 116, the last surviving man born in the 19th century, and was likely the last surviving World War I veteran. Born in Kyoto, Japan, in 1897, Kimura was a bright student who served in the Imperial Japanese Army for four years and worked as a postmaster until he retired at 65. He and his wife were married for 58 years and had 8 children. Kimura remained active and helped work the family farm until his 90s.

Guinness World Records

Juan Vicente Perez Mora Is the Oldest Living Man (113 Years Old & Counting)

Juan Vicente Pérez Mora has been the oldest living man for a little over a year. At 113, the Venezuelan man remains in remarkably good health, according to his family and doctor. Born in 1909, Pérez Mora grew up on a farm in San José de Bolívar. He married his wife in 1938, and the two shared nearly 60 years together. The couple had 11 children, 41 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and 12 great-great-grandchildren. Pérez Mora swears by sugarcane hooch (a strong liquor made from sugarcane) as the key to his longevity. The supercentenarian says he has a glass every day. Friends and family attribute his long life to his diet and tranquil nature.


Where Do We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

Category: Validated supercentenarians | Gerontology Wiki

The oldest people in the world – Lucile Randon and 14 other supercentenarians

Oldest People Ever Confirmed To Live

The world’s oldest people and their secrets to a long life

The World’s Longest Lived

The Top 100 Verified Oldest People and What We Can Learn From Them

The 12 Oldest Persons to Ever Live