A recognition that will do you in eventually

oldest person

If there’s one honor you don’t want, it’s to be recognized as the world’s oldest person.

Without fail, often within months and sometimes even weeks of being declared as the planet’s senior senior citizen, the individual is dead.

The latest to fall victim to this curse: Japan’s Jiroemon Kimura, 116, who died today less than six months after being recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living person.

Kimura did far better than his immediate predecessor, though. Dina Manfredini lasted just 13 as the world’s oldest person before dying late last year.

And of the 32 previous record holders, only seven survived more than a year after being honored for their longevity. Sounds like a curse if I’ve ever heard of one.

In seriousness, one of the interesting aspects of news stories about the extremely aged is that they are almost never quoted. This is almost always, to put it delicately, because the faculties of the extremely aged aren’t quite what they once were.

For one thing, many can’t hear which makes it difficult for reporters to get responses to questions.

But the bigger issue is that especially when one gets past 110-plus-years, the mental faculties tend to deteriorate.

One of the more amusing journalism stories I recall was when a fellow reporter was dispatched to cover the birthday party for a woman who was purported to be 120 years old.

Because the woman in question was black and had lived in the Florida Panhandle her entire life, there was little documentation to back up her family’s claim regarding her age, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.

My colleague and a newspaper photographer arrived at the party, being held at an area nursing home, and talked to the family for a short while; then, with the family’s help, attempted to interview the elderly honoree.

After asking several questions and getting absolutely no response, my colleague began to wonder if the woman was even able to speak.

She then tried one last innocuous question, something along the lines of “Do you have any secrets to your longevity?”

To which the 120-year-old birthday girl blurted out clearly and for all to hear: “Get the hell away from me!”

End of interview.

Needless to say, when it came time for my coworker to write her story about how a local woman celebrated her 120th birthday surrounded by family and friends, there were no quotes from the resident supercentenarian.


13 thoughts on “A recognition that will do you in eventually

  1. I don’t have a thing to worry about in this category. With all of the stress I’ve put on my bod I will be lucky to make it to 75.

    • I sometimes think it’s better to live to an enjoyable 75 than make it to 105 and have the last 30 years be full of illness, mental disability and having to deal with the fact that most of your friends and a good part of your family have died.

  2. They are a kind of last words aren’t they, “I’m the oldest person in the world!” It is just like stepping up to do something dangerous and saying “what could go wrong?”. 😀

  3. First thing this morning – look at news. “Japan’s Jiroemon Kimura, who had been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest living person and the oldest man ever, died Wednesday of natural causes. He was 116.”


    “The title of oldest living person is now held by another Japanese, 115-year-old Misao Okawa, of Osaka.”

    Be on the lookout for her obit!

    • I guarantee you that the grim reaper is coming for her. I’d be really surprised if she lasts another five years.

      Whomever comes up with these titles really ought to think twice; they’re only consigning these poor old folks to their eternal reward.

  4. What a funny title, funny post, and funny comments. My laugh out loud for the morning! I want to live a long full life, and have so far already, but oldest living person – no I don’t want that dubious honor, thank you very much. Loved your interview story! My first husband and I used to go to the local nursing home where he would do the Sunday service, and I would lead the singing – hahaha We had a similar sentence thrown at us from time to time, “Get ME out of HERE! NURSE! NURSE! I want to get OUT OF HERE!”

  5. It isn’t a contest I want to win. I did one of the longevity calculators that estimated I could live until I was 97 and it just made me tired. I don’t know too many 97 years old living fulfilling lives.

    • I have a graet-aunt who is going to be 102 in less than two months and she still lives on her own in a house she’s owned since the 1950s and walks over daily to a senior center that happens to be on her street. She manages to keep herself pretty busy.

      Unfortunately, though, most people, for whatever reason, do not live fulfilling lives when they get up into the 80s or 90s it seems to me. Personally, I think it has to do with your curiousity about life and a desire to learn. If those remain with you, you can find interesting things to do, provided your health permits.

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