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.
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 ââthe 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.”
MarÃa Capovilla Defied Death at Age 100 (116 Years Old)
Born in 1889, MarÃa 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 recordâand died the very next day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.