The Japanese woman, Misao Okawa, is turning 116 years old today and is considered to be the world’s oldest living person.
The daughter of a fabric merchant, Okawa was born in Osaka, Japan, on March 5, 1898 — a year when Queen Victoria sat on the British throne, New York added surrounding counties that would become the five famous boroughs, and the Philippines declared independence.
Accepting bouquet from well-wishers at a small party in the nursing home where she lives in the western city of Osaka, Okawa sat by the cake, decorated with “116” in candles, and later pronounced it as “delicious.” Reuters reports that he wore a pink kimono patterned with cherry blossoms and a blue cardigan for the event. Asked if she was happy to have lived so long, she replied, according to the Asahi Shimbun daily: “Kind of.”
Mrs. Okawa, whose husband, Yukio Okawa, died in June 1931 – 83 years ago, has been the world’s oldest person since the death of 116-year-old Jireomon Kimura in June 2013. He remains the world’s oldest ever man. After celebrating her 115th birthday last year, Misao was presented with a certificate by the Guinness Book of Records officially recognising her as the world’s oldest living woman.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph earlier this week, she shared with the paper her secret of longevity: “Eat and sleep and you will live a long time. You have to learn to relax.”
“Mrs Okawa eats three large meals a day and makes sure that she sleeps eight hours a night,” said Tomohito Okada, the head of the Kurenai retirement home where she has lived for the last 18 years.
“She insists that her favourite meal is sushi, particularly mackerel on vinegar-steamed rice, and she has it at least once every month,” he said.
When asked about the happiest moments of her life, Mrs Okawa says that it was her wedding and the birth of her three children – she still has a surviving son and daughter who are now 94 and 92. Her children have also given her four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Equally, she says the saddest time of her life was the death of her husband in June 1931 – an almost unthinkable 83 years ago.
Misao has lived across three centuries, which have seen immense social and technological advances including the advent of motor vehicles, flight, mobile telephones, social networking sites and 6 UK Monarchs, 4 Emperors of Japan and 20 US Presidents, says Guinness World Records.
Japan is one of the world’s most long-lived nations, with nearly 54,400 centenarians as of September 2013, according to the health ministry. Experts often point to Japan’s healthy, low-fat diet and affordable health care with government-sponsored senior exercise programs as reasons for the increased lifespans. The life expectancy for a Japanese woman is almost 86 years while the average for a Japanese man is 79.6 years.
But the record for the world’s oldest ever person is still held by French woman Jeanne Calment, who passed away at the age of 122 in the year of 1997. However, plenty of others have claimed to be even older – their claims have just been unverifiable.