In the search for longevity, we tend to focus on healthy lifestyles, miracle supplements, or potential technologies. It’s easy to forget the people who have accomplished that goal seemingly without the intention to do so. Gertrude Baines, the oldest person on Earth, passed away in Los Angeles on Friday September 11, 2009, at the tender age of 115. That, my friends, is old. Her title passes on to Kama Chinen in Japan, age 114, and still going strong. These supercentenarians give us hope that the dream of living longer (maybe forever) is a possible one.
There are ‘Blue Zones‘ on Earth were people live longer, and those populations seem to have much in common. We see simple lifestyles devoid of unnecessary stress, good diets that focus on fruits and veggies (not meats and sugars), and plenty of daily exercise. Supercentenarians, however, are as much about statistical anomalies as they are about trends. They don’t seem to have a lot in common besides agrarian backgrounds (but we’re talking about the 1890s here) and gender (most are women). Apparently one of Ms. Baines favorite foods was bacon and eggs.
Gertrude Baines was born on April 6, 1894 in Georgia, worked for many years as a maid at Ohio State University, and spent the last ten years of her life in a resident home in LA. She took over the reign of oldest person in January of this year when Maria de Jesus (Portugal) died at age 114. Her successor, Kama Chinen (b. May 10, 1895), is only 7 days older than the next runner up, Canadian born US resident Mary Jospehine Ray.
Of the hundreds of thousands of people in the world who reach one hundred years of age, only 1 in a 1000 will make it to the 110 year mark. Of those, 1-2% will make it past 115. Beyond that, every year is like winning the lottery. Sakhan Dosova of Kazakhstan supposedly lived to be 130. Jeanne Calment of France is well documented to have passed 122. Many of these women, and again a super majority of centenarians and supercentenarians are women, lived relatively simple lives often in meager means. As we discussed in an earlier article, Sakhan Dosova’s death may have been indirectly related to her being moved to better conditions.
The human body, or some human bodies at least, can survive long wear and tear for years past the century mark. There’s plenty of evidence that the average person’s longevity could extend into this region routinely. Already, most developed nations enjoy a centenarian rate of more than 100 per million. The US, France, and Japan all have rates near or above 300 per million. Every nation expects those numbers to rise dramatically in the next century. As we explore longevity here at the Hub, it goods to keep in mind that while we may have to fight aging in our bodies, some bodies are already willing to join in on the battle.