Who's Behind Listverse?
Jamie founded Listverse due to an insatiable desire to share fascinating, obscure, and bizarre facts. He has been a guest speaker on numerous national radio and television stations and is a five time published author.More About Us
Top 10 Oldest People Ever
We would all love to live longer, so long as we can do it functionally and with all our faculties in place. There is much argument and many conflicting ideas on what allows people to live a long and healthy life. Despite this there is evidence of people living to an extraordinary age while smoking all their life, eating chocolate, drinking alcohol and all sorts of other contraindicated behaviors.
This is a list not of centenarians (people who have reached the age of 100 years), but of supercentenarians, who are those that have reached the ripe old age of 110 years or more. supercentenarians represent only a small portion of those living over 100 years. Only 1 in 1000 centenarians reach the age of 110. Further, only 2 percent of supercentenarians live to see age 115. Currently there are a documented 76 female and 2 male supercentenarians.
This list includes only verified supercentenarians, leaving out claims like Shirali Muslim (although he is a bonus item). However there are a few disputed claims that do have some proof.
So here they are in order from youngest to oldest.
Kamato Hongo, a Japanese supercentenarian, who was apparently the oldest living person from March 2002 until her death in 2003. She lived in Kagoshima and celebrated her 116th birthday a month before her death from pneumonia.
Hongo was born on the small island of Tokunoshima, she later moved to Kagoshima where she lived with her daughter. She became a minor celebrity and was a focus of some merchandise including wash-cloths, key-rings, phone cards and more (imagine how stylish a shirt with a wrinkled great grandmother on it would look). Hongo was 58 years old when World War II ended.
Kyushu, where Kagoshima is located is home to several other age record holders, making it an island of longevity, much like Okinawa.
Carrie C. White was recognized by Guinness world records as the oldest person in the world at around the time of her 114th birthday in 1988. Carrie was a resident of Palatka, Florida nursing home. She was in a nursing home not because of age, but due to a nervous breakdown in 1909, which left her institutionalized. Carrie is another case of dispute, however her documentation seems to be in order enough to give her the title of world’s oldest person between January 11th 1988 and February 14th 1991.
Elizabeth is a case that is not disputed, with documents in perfect order. And yes, she is another one from the United States. In fact, the US has more supercentenarians than any country in the world. They are not considered a land of longevity though due to the number per capita.
Elizabeth Bolden was one of only seven people worldwide that lived until age 116. Her birth was the last remaining documented birth of 1890. Elizabeth Jones (later Bolden) was born in Somerville Tennessee, the daughter of freed slaves. Lizzie married Lewis Bolden circa 1908 and their first child, a son named Ezell, was born on September 21st 1909. She had seven children in total, only two of whom were still alive at the time of her death in 2006.
In addition to Lizzie’s seven children she had 40 grand-children, 75 great grand-children, 150 great-great grand-children, 220 great-great-great grand-children and 75 great-great-great-great grand-children. Geez, imagine Christmas at granny’s house.
During my research I couldn’t find any documentation on her lifestyle habits. However a few lower down on this list reveal some of their secrets.
Tane Ikain is Japan’s oldest female on record ever. She is also the oldest undisputed person since the Koseki system in 1879.
Tane Ikai outlived her daughter and her three sons. Ikai moved to a retirement home in 1972 at age 93 where she enjoyed sewing and pottery until she had a stroke at age 99. She also suffered a stroke at age 113 and was bed-ridden ever since. She survived on three meals of rice gruel a day (mmm yummy, I promise there are better supercentenarian diets lower on this list). She died at age 116 and 175 days of kidney failure.
Her body was the first of a supercentenarian known to be autopsied.
Maria was a supercentenarian born in Ecuador and, until the time of her death, was recognized as the world’s oldest living person. She was the oldest documented person to have lived in three centuries.
Maria was the daughter of a colonel and lived a life in the upper-class elite. She attended social functions and art classes. She never smoked or drank hard liquor, unlike others on this list. At age 100 Capovilla nearly died and was given last rites, but has been reasonably free of health problems since then until her death. At age 116 she was said to be in good health and was able to watch TV, read newspapers and walk without the aid of a cane.
By March 2006 Capovilla’s health had declined somewhat and she was no longer able to read the newspaper. She had also stopped talking and was only able to walk with the help of two people. Still she was able to sit upright in a chair and was said to be doing fine. She died of Pneumonia just 18 days before her 117th birthday.
Meilleur was a French-Canadian supercentenarian, who upon the death of Jeanne Calment (number one on the list), was the oldest living person. She is still the oldest ever Canadian.
By the time she died of a blood clot at age 117, her son was already in the same nursing home and her oldest living daughter was 90 years old. Now that would make you feel old, a 90 year old daughter. She was said to be a vegetarian and an “Avid Cigarette Smoker” (as opposed to a normal cigarette smoker?).
Lucy Hannah was an American super centenarian, that’s right another American. But I can’t help it, she’s fourth on the list due to age. Hannah is the oldest African American to have ever lived and the oldest American at the time of her death. She is also, strangely, the oldest person to have never held the title of oldest LIVING person because she coincided with Jeanne Calment.
Sarah Knauss, was the oldest person to have ever lived in America. She died 33 hours before the year 2000. Sarah Knauss lived her entire life in Pennsylvania. She was born in a small coal-mining town called Hollywood. That’s right folks, Hollywood, the other Hollywood.
Knauss was a homemaker and insurance office manager. Her daughter, who was 96 at the time of her death and lived to be 101 herself, said she was a very tranquil and peaceful person. She said nothing fazed her mother. “This is why she has lived so long“. In 1995 she was asked if she enjoyed her long life. Her answer was that she enjoyed it because she had her health and could still do many things into old age. Her interests were needlepoint, watching televised golf and eating chocolate turtles, cashews and potato chips. Knauss was an elegant lady, very refined.
Sarah died quietly in her room at the Phoebe-Devitt Home Foundation Facility on December 30th 1999. Doctors said she was in good health with no signs of illness. She just simply ‘expired’. Had she lived three days longer she would have lived in three different centuries.
Izumi is another disputed case like the first couple of list items. However Guinness World Record still maintains that his record is valid. Izumi is unique on a list of supercentenarians because he is male. There is a pattern of longevity that seems to favor women. This may be due to a lot of reasons. One theory is that males live harsher, more stressful lives. Well they did in the first part of this century and before.
Izumi was a Japanese born supercentenarian. His name was recorded in Japan’s first census in 1871. He also holds the world record for the longest working life. He worked a total of 98 years. His wife died at age 90, which is still a pretty good run. He drank brown sugar shochu, an alcoholic beverage distilled from barley or rice. Interestingly he took up smoking at age 70. Lord knows why. Hanging with the cool kids maybe? He started working in 1872, when he was six years old (this is what he says anyway) and continued working until 1970 at age 105. He says his long life is the work of the gods, Buddha and the sun. he lived through a total of 71 Japanese prime ministers.
Izumi died of pneumonia after being in hospital a short time on February 21st 1986, the same day as Jeanne Calment’s 111th birthday (see item one). There is some research to suggest that Izumi was not the oldest person at the time and put his age at a juvenile 105 years. However this is still up for debate. If this is true Christian Mortensen is the oldest man to have ever lived at 115 years, 252 days. Christian’s age has been verified and is undisputed.
Jeanne Calment is my favorite. Super longevity is a fascinating topic for me. Considering that the maximum human lifespan possible is considered to be 123 – 125 years of age, makes Jeanne very special indeed. She definitely overstayed her time here on Earth.
Jeanne Louise Calment was a French supercentenarian from Arles. She outlived her daughter and her grandson. She was very well known at age 113 on the centenary of Vincent Van Gogh’s visit to Arles. She was the last person living to have personally met the artist. Her lifespan has been thoroughly documented, with more proof of her age than for any other case.
Funny Fact: Calment had no living heirs in 1965 at age 90. She made a deal to sell her apartment to lawyer Andrea-Francois Raffray on a contingency contract. This is often referred to as a reverse mortgage. He agreed to pay her 2500 francs every month until her death. Sounds like a smart move on his part considering she was 90 years old. He ended up paying her what equates to $180,000, which is more than double the apartment’s worth. After Raffray’s death in 1995 from cancer at age 77, his wife continued the payments until Calment’s death. How silly would you feel making that deal then having her live over 32 years after age 90?
Calment met Vincent Van Gogh in 1888 when he came to her father’s shop to buy some paint and pencils. She described him as dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable. She remembers this visit clearly along with watching the Eiffel tower being built.
At age 85 Jeanne took up fencing and at age 100 she was still riding a bicycle. She claimed to never have been athletic or fanatical about health and fitness. Calment lived alone until just before her 110th birthday. It was decided that she would be better off in a nursing home after a cooking accident nearly killed her. Jeanne was in great health and was able to walk right up until age 114 and 11 months when she fractured her femur from a fall. after an operation on the broken limb she required a wheelchair. She became ill with the flu just before her 116th birthday. She smoked right up until she was 117. Calment ascribed her longevity and youthful looks to olive oil. She rubbed it on her skin, drank it and used it in cooking. She enjoyed port wine and ate almost one kilogram (2.2lbs) of chocolate per week. Here is another photo of Jeanne aged 22.
Shirali Muslimov is an interesting case. Some say his age is for real, most dispute his extreme longevity. Muslimov was a Talysh shepherd from the village of Barzavu in the Lerik region of Azerbaijan, a mountainous area near the Iranian border.
The only evidence of Muslimov’s age is a passport that states his birth date in 1805. So there could be some truth to it. What is more likely however is that he has been confused with someone else, possibly his father or grandfather. It would be nice to believe though. Imagine a healthy 168 years of life. In the photo above on the right, Muslimov was allegedly over 160 years old.