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More People are Living Longer but None Has Reached 123

U.S. leads the world with four oldest people including women and a Puerto Rican man

By Tucker Sutherland, editor


Is he 130?


Dec. 3, 2005 – The Yemen Observer reported last week on a man there that claims to be 130 years old. There is apparently no way to verify his age and Saeed Bin Saeed Al-Humri will most likely disappear among many others, particularly from countries that did little years ago to document births, who have claimed to be the oldest living person. Officially, no person has ever celebrated a 123rd birthday.

The oldest person every officially document was Jeanne-Louise Calment, who died at 122 years and 164 days old on August 4, 1997 in her native France. According to Guinness World Records, "she led an extremely active life, taking up fencing at 85 years old, and was still riding a bicycle at 100. She portrayed herself at the age of 114 in the film "Vincent And Me," to become the oldest actress in film.


Is Maria da Silva 125?


A Brazilian woman, Maria Olivia da Silva of São Paulo, reportedly turned 125 in February. The story was reported by the Associated Press, but neither the Gerontology Research Group nor the Guinness World Records have been able to verify the claim.

Al-Humri has no documents to prove his age by he does have a grandson who is a grandfather. He also has 281 direct relatives to whom he is either a father or a grandfather, while the numbers of his direct family who have died are even higher, according to the Yemen newspaper.

Bolden now oldest person. Photo by Dave Darnell, Memphis Commercial Appeal

The Gerontology Research Group (GRG) validates Supercentenarians - anyone who has lived to be 110 years or older. They currently recognize 72 "Validated Living Supercentenarians" -- 64 women and 8 men.

They say, however, the actual number of worldwide living Supercentenarians is more likely to be between 300 and 450 persons. For the USA, they estimate there are 60 to 75.

"It should be noted that a significant majority of worldwide claimants to be age 110-or-over have subsequently been proven to be false;" the GRG says on their website. "These individuals and more often their family or friends have their own personal motives for claiming these persons and, we are sad to report, are occasionally disingenuous."

Although other countries get most of the favorable publicity about aging longer, it is the U.S. that currently holds the top three spots in the ranking of the oldest living people – all three are women. And, the fourth spot is help by a man from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

There are actually 12 U.S. citizens in the top 24 on the list maintained by the GRG. The first three are U.S. women from the South and all are 115 years old - Elizabeth "Lissie" Bolden, Tennessee; Bettie Wilson, Mississippi, and Susie Gibson, Mississippi.

  Emiliano del Toro - oldest man  

In fourth place is Emiliano Mercado del Toro, 114, from Puerto Rico, who is also the oldest living man and oldest U.S. army veteran.

But, a team of researchers led by University of Illinois at Chicago professor S. Jay Olshansky predicted in March of this year that the U.S. will see a decline in life expectancy later this century due to "the dramatic rise in obesity."

The study suggested that obesity currently reduces life expectancy by approximately four to nine months. The researchers said the life-shortening effect of obesity could rise so rapidly in the United States -- from two to five years in the next 50 years -- that it may eventually exceed the current life-shortening effects of cancer or ischemic heart disease.

The study generated publicity but did not get a lot of support from those who study aging and see a continued climb in U.S. life expectancy.

It was also counted by a study released in August that said being obese at 70 years old doesn’t have much bearing on how long men or women are going to live. But, both obese men and women will have less “active years’ than their non-obese fellow senior citizens. They studied over 7,000 senior citizens and found those who reach the age of 70 are at no greater risk of dying than their non-obese counterparts, but they do have a much greater probability of spending their remaining years disabled.

The obesity study may have helped motivate the National Geographic Magazine to feature "The Secrets of Long Life" in their November issue.

The magazine visited three regions where people are reaching age 100 at "astonishing rates:" Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, Calif.

Residents of these three places are longevity all-stars, suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world, and enjoy more healthy years of life, according to the magazine.

"Their shared "best practices," if implemented in daily life, could add a decade to one's lifespan," the National Geographic said in promoting the issue. "Of course, genes do play a role in determining longevity, but lifestyle is well-known to be a significant determining factor."

Despite all the focus on how the world is living longer, the GRG says "there is no statistical evidence to support the hypothesis that the absolute number of Supercentenarians is increasing as a percentage of the total population."

But, a recent report by the United Nations said global life expectancy at birth, which is estimated to have risen from 46 years in 1950-1955 to 65 years in 2000-2005, is expected to keep on rising to reach 75 years in 2045-2050. In the more developed regions, the projected increase is from 75 years today to 82 years by mid-century.

Korea is expected to have the highest proportion of senior citizens in the world by 2050 – 37.3 percent. They project to beat Japan (36.5%), Italy (34.4%), and the U.S. (21.1%). The global elderly population is expected to be 15.9 percent in 2050, according to projections by the U.N.

There are 36 million senior citizens in the U.S. today but this will grow to 87 million by 2050, says the U.N. study.

In the most recent study by the U.S. Census Bureau, the total U.S. population increased 3.3 percent between 2000 and 2003 but the population 65 and older increased only 2.6 percent. A “birth dearth” during the late 1920s and early 1930s was largely responsible for the slow growth of this group. But, the population 85 and older grew by 11 percent, faster than any other age group.

Another study by the Society of Actuaries in partnership with researchers at the Center on Aging and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago found the number of U.S. centenarians has increased by 51 percent in the 10-year period from Jan. 1, 1990 to Jan. 1, 2000.

So, certainly the evidence is mounting that we are living longer, particularly in the U.S., and someone may soon reach that magical 123rd birthday.


Related Stories


New Picture of Senior, Boomer Populations in Census 2003 Profile

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Chances of Joining Centenarians Best for First Born Daughters of Farmers

Also helps with birthday in January, raised on farm in the West

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American Woman Becomes World’s Oldest Living Person

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How Old is Old?

Most Think Old is 71, Seniors Edge Their Choices Higher

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Oldest Living Woman Challenge Fades Away

Claims Brazilian is 125 never verified by world authorities

July 17, 2005 - Hendrikje Van Andel-Schipper, who turned 115 years old on June 29, is holding on to her title as the world’s oldest living woman, despite challenges that emerged earlier this year claiming a Brazilian woman, Maria Olivia da Silva of São Paulo, turned 125 in February. The story was reported by the Associated Press, but neither the Gerontology Research Group nor the Guinness World Records have verified the claim. Read more...

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Twins Pass 98, Going for Title as Oldest Female Twins

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Husband in World’s Longest Marriage Dies at 105

He claimed the secret to his long marriage was “Yes Dear”

June 15, 2005 – The man who claimed the secret to his 80 years of marriage was “Yes Dear” has died at the age of 105, only two weeks after celebrating his anniversary on June 1 with wife, Florence, who is 100. Percy Arrowsmith died at his home in Hereford, England. They were honored on their anniversary by the Guinness World Records for the longest marriage of a living couple and the oldest married couple in aggregate age. Read more...

Profile of Older Americans: 2004 Released Online

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And many more can be found on the Senior Statistics Page - click here



Other links:

For the full story in the Yemen Observer – click here.

Click here to report in Guinness World Records

National Geographic Magazine, November 2005, promotion

Gerontology Research Group

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