The Japanese marked the Day of the Elderly on September 18th. Japan’s number of centenarians has already exceeded 28,000 these days. Demographers say the phenomenon is quite unique and nothing of the kind exists anywhere else in the world.
Japan has been keeping track of its long-lived residents since 1963. There were about one hundred people over the age of 100 in Japan back then. The number had risen to 25,000 by the end of 2005. Okinawa, a province in southern Japans, has the highest number of the long-lived people.
Ione Minagawa, a resident of Tokyo, is Japan’s oldest woman. She recently turned 113. According to Mrs. Minagawa’s inmates in a rest home, “the old lady feels fine, she is fun and pretty sociable despite her age.” Her recipe for longevity sounds somewhat simple: one should eat a hearty meal before going to sleep, and say “thank you” to everybody.
Tomoji Tanabe tops the list of Japan’s oldest men. He turned 111 on the Day of the Elderly. He lives with a family of his fifth son. The old man’s hearing has become worse than before but he still gets up at 6 a.m. sharp, keeps his diary, and offers his own recipe for longevity: do not smoke and do not drink sake (a Japanese fermented, mildly alcoholic beverage made from rice).
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s oldest person lives in El Salvador. The old lady is called Cruz Hernandes, she celebrated her 128th birthday in May this year. According to a local register, the old lady was born in 1878. She has 13 children, 60 grandchildren, 80 great-grandchildren, and 25 great-great-grandchildren.
Meanwhile, in Russia …
Hilariously as it may seem, the world’s oldest person lives in Russia. Nikolai Savchenko, a resident of the Siberian city of Irkutsk, is about to turn 365. Mr. Savchenko apparently fell victim to the Russian passport system. He was issued a new passport several years ago. His new passport had an astonishing year of birth of the bearer: 1641. In other words, Mr. Savchenko was contemporary with the Russian czar Alexei Mikhailovich, the father of the Russian Emperor Peter I. But nobody seemed to pay any attention to rather strange year of birth indicated in Mr. Savchenko’s passport. He used it regularly when receiving his pension, paying utilities or buying railroad tickets for the next two years until the misprint finally came to light.
On the level, the majority of Russian centenarians live in the regions of the Caucasus and Altai, according to Alexei Svistunov, chief editor of the Russian Book of Records. Kitz Lvovna Yaganova, a resident of Adygei Autonomous Region, has been thought to be Russia’s oldest person until recently. She was reported to have been born in 1878. However, the authorities found no evidence whatsoever to prove the stated year of birth of Mrs. Yaganova when they checked the records kept in the archives of the mountainous village where the above lady was born and has lived all her life.
For the record
Obrey de Grey, a British gerontologist from Cambridge, is confident that people of today are already capable of reaching the age of 1,000 years. According to de Grey, those who want to live to such an advanced age should undergo a regular “technical” examination and replace their worn-out organs with the new ones.
The scientist believes that the use of stem cells and other biotechnologies would gradually put off the inevitability of death for 30-40 years. In the meantime, man would receive yet another “period of grace” thanks to continuous progress made by science. “Ideally, man would be able to live for an indefinite amount of time by leapfrogging past his death,” says Obrey de Grey.
Translated by Guerman Grachev