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The Last Man to See the 1800s Dies

Stashed in: #health, Japan, Awesome, Longevity!, Nutrition!, Aging, Vegetables!

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Jiroemon Kimura was the last man living who witnessed the 19th century. Born in 1897, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, he was 6 years old when the Wright Brothers showed the world that man can fly, and 11 when Henry Ford introduced the Model T automobile. He lived through two world wars, the reigns of four emperors, the terms of 20 U.S. presidents, and 61 Japanese prime ministers. Along the way, he had five kids, 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and 13 great-great-grandchildren, his family said. And on June 12, at 2:08 a.m., he passed on, in his hometown of Kyotango, Japan. He was 116 years and 54 days old.

With his death, his title as the oldest human being living on earth was handed to another Japanese citizen, Misao Okawa. Born on March 5, 1898, the Osaka resident just passed her own 115th birthday.

I wonder how many great-great grandchildren he will end up having when we have a final tally. 50?

He had 51 years of retirement, 1962-2013:

Mr. Kimura started from humble beginnings, born to a farming family in western Japan. After working at local post offices for 45 years until his retirement at the age of 65, in 1962, he helped his son with farming until he was 90.


Okay, I gotta know, what's his secret to longevity?

In 2009, Mr. Kimura told camera crews that he exercises daily, reads newspapers at least two hours a day, and keeps up with parliamentary proceedings. “I’ve got to keep up with the times,” he said.

Active body and active mind.

Also, what you eat is important:

What’s the secret of long life? Mr. Kimura attributed his longevity to eating small portions of food. Ms. Okawa’s has been to eat, constantly, and “watch out for one’s health.” Kin-san and Gin-san, the nationally beloved centenarian twins, who passed away a few years ago at the ages of 108 and 109, used to recommend vegetables and fish.

Vegetables and fish.

As a culture, Japan has mastered longevity:

It’s no surprise that the Guinness-certified oldests reside in Japan. The country’s average life expectancy at birth is 83 years, the highest in the world. (By comparison, the figure is just under 79 years for the U.S.) The figure is projected to exceed 90 for Japanese women by 2050. There are 40 centenarians per 100,000 people in the country, which has the world’s highest proportion of the elderly, according to Japan’s health ministry: 23.3% of the total population were over 65 in 2011, compared to 13% for the U.S.

Not only are Japanese living longer, but they’re pushing the envelope for how to make use of those extra years. Yuichiro Miura, an 80-year-old mountain climber, recently became the oldest conqueror of Mt. Everest.

My beloved maternal grandmother was born in 1897! She was the daughter of tenant farmers on the east coast of North Korea -- pretty much the bottom of the barrel in terms of climate, food, healthcare, and war (she personally experienced the Russo-Japanese War, WWI, WWII, and the Korean War). And yet she lived to be very old and almost made it to my college graduation. My mom always told me that it's all genetic... when it's your time, it's your time and there's little you can do to change it.

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