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Uncovering the Lives of the World’s Oldest People: 10 Top Supercentenarians

Image of an hourglass signifying the passing of the years for a blog post covering a list of the world's oldest people.

Have you ever wondered about the world’s oldest people who’ve ever lived and the secrets behind their incredible longevity?

In this captivating exploration of the lives of the ten oldest individuals ever recorded, we uncover a remarkable pattern: every single one of them is a woman.

From the French supercentenarian Jeanne Calment to the American wonder Gertrude Weaver, these extraordinary ladies have not only witnessed the turn of two centuries but have also lived through some of the most significant events in modern history.

As we delve into their stories, we’ll discover the unique combination of factors that contributed to their astonishing lifespans, and perhaps even uncover a few secrets to living a long and fulfilling life ourselves.

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World’s Oldest People in History: The Details

Topping our list of the 10 oldest people in history is the remarkable Jeanne Calment, a French supercentenarian whose extraordinary lifespan has captivated the world.

Image of the birth certificate of one of the world's oldest people to have ever lived, Jeanne Calment
The 1875 birth certificate of French supercentenarian Jeanne Calment

1. Jeanne Calment (France) | 122 Years, 164 Days

Jeanne Calment, a French supercentenarian, was born on February 21, 1875, in Arles, France.

Throughout her extraordinarily long life of 122 years and 164 days, Calment witnessed significant historical events, including the construction of the Eiffel Tower and both World Wars.

She worked in her family’s drapery shop before marrying her wealthy distant cousin.

Calment attributed her longevity to a diet rich in olive oil, regular consumption of port wine, and maintaining a good sense of humor.

Remarkably, she smoked until the age of 117 and indulged in her love for chocolate and port.

Calment’s unprecedented lifespan solidified her place as the oldest verified person in recorded history.

The next individual to come close to Calment’s record-breaking age is Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman born in 1903.

Image of Japanese supercentenarian in her youth.
Japanese supercentenarian, Kane Tanaka, pictured in her youth

2. Kane Tanaka (Japan) | 119 Years, 107 Days

Kane Tanaka, born on January 2, 1903, in Fukuoka, Japan, was a remarkable supercentenarian who lived through an impressive 119 years and 107 days.

During her lifetime, Tanaka experienced the reign of five Japanese emperors and numerous significant events, including two world wars and the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

She was married to her cousin Hideo Tanaka and had four children of her own, adopting a fifth later in life.

Tanaka’s longevity was attributed to her strong faith in God, family, sleep, hope, eating good food, and practicing mathematics.

Her vibrant personality and love for board games, calligraphy, and chocolate made her an inspiration to many.

Following Tanaka on the list of the world’s oldest people is Sarah Knauss, an American supercentenarian born in 1880.

Image of Sarah Knauss as a young girl.
A young Sarah Knauss near the beginning of her 119-year life

3. Sarah Knauss (United States) | 119 Years, 107 Days

Sarah Knauss, an American supercentenarian, was born on September 24, 1880, in Hollywood, Pennsylvania.

Living through an impressive 119 years and 97 days, Knauss witnessed the turn of two centuries and experienced significant historical events, such as the Spanish-American War, World War I, and the Great Depression.

She was a homemaker and had one daughter, Kathryn, who lived to be 101 years old.

Knauss attributed her longevity to a life of moderation, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, and maintaining a tranquil demeanor.

Her legacy as one of the world’s oldest people continues to inspire those seeking the secrets to a long life.

Next on our list is Nabi Tajima, a Japanese supercentenarian born in 1900, who also lived an astonishingly long life.

Image of a young Lucille Randon prior to her becoming a nun.
Young Lucille Randon would become a nun at age 40

4. Lucille Randon (France) | 118 Years, 340 Days

Lucile Randon, better known as Sister André, was one of the world’s oldest people when she passed away on January 17, 2023, at the incredible age of 118 years and 340 days.

Born on February 11, 1904, in Alès, France, Sister André lived through both World Wars, the Spanish flu pandemic, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

She converted to Catholicism at the age of 19 and worked as a teacher, governess, and nurse assistant before joining a religious order at 40.

Sister André dedicated her life to serving others and maintained a positive attitude, attributing her longevity to her faith, staying mentally active, and indulging in small pleasures like chocolate and wine.

Her inspirational life story serves as a reminder that age is just a number, and that purpose, faith, and joy can carry us through even the most challenging times.

From France, we now turn our attention to Maria Branyas Morera, a Spanish supercentenarian who has also left her mark on the world’s oldest people.

Image of one of the world's oldest people to have ever lived, Nabi Tajima of Japan.
Japanese supercentenarian Nabi Tajima poses with her age verification certificate

5. Nabi Tajima (Japan) | 117 Years, 260 Days

Nabi Tajima, a Japanese supercentenarian, was born on August 4, 1900, in the small village of Arari, Japan.

Throughout her remarkable life spanning 117 years and 260 days, Tajima experienced the Russo-Japanese War, two World Wars, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

She was a housewife and a farmer, dedicating her life to her family, which grew to include nine children, 28 grandchildren, 56 great-grandchildren, and 35 great-great-grandchildren.

Tajima’s secret to longevity was a diet rich in vegetables and fish, as well as getting plenty of sleep.

Her warm personality and love for her family made her a cherished figure in her community.

As we move on to the next supercentenarian, Marie-Louise Meilleur, we continue to uncover the fascinating lives of those who have defied the odds of human longevity.

Image of French-Canadian supercentenarian Marie-Louise Meilleur.
French-Canadian supercentenarian Marie-Louise Meilleur
works in her garden many years before setting her age record

6. Marie-Louise Meilleur (Canada) | 117 Years, 230 Days

Marie-Louise Meilleur, a French-Canadian supercentenarian and one of the world’s oldest people, was born on August 29, 1880, in Kamouraska, Quebec.

During her remarkable life of 117 years and 230 days, Meilleur lived through significant events such as the Canadian Confederation, both World Wars, and the Great Depression.

She worked as a homemaker and a farmer, raising 12 children with her husband.

Meilleur attributed her longevity to her Catholic faith, hard work, and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Her legacy as one of Canada’s oldest citizens continues to inspire those seeking the secrets to a long and fulfilling life.

From Canada, we now journey to Jamaica to learn about Violet Brown, another extraordinary member of the exclusive group of the world’s oldest people.

Image of Jamaican supercentenarian Violet Brown, reading.
Jamaican supercentenarian Violet Brown reading to pass the time

7. Violet Brown (Jamaica) | 117 Years, 189 Days

Violet Brown, a Jamaican supercentenarian and one of the world’s oldest people, was born on March 10, 1900, in Trelawny, Jamaica.

During her impressive lifespan of 117 years and 189 days, Brown witnessed Jamaica’s transition from a British colony to an independent nation, as well as the two World Wars and the Great Depression.

She worked as a sugarcane farmer and a domestic worker, dedicating her life to her faith and her family.

Brown credited her longevity to her deep religious beliefs, a diet rich in natural foods, and abstaining from alcohol and smoking.

Her warm personality and love for her community made her a cherished figure in Jamaica.

As we bid farewell to Violet Brown, we turn our attention to Emma Morano, an Italian supercentenarian who also earned her place among the world’s oldest people.

Image of one of the world's oldest people to have ever lived, Emma Morano, of Italy.
Italian supercentenarian Emma Morano at her 117th birthday celebration

8. Emma Morano (Italy) | 117 Years, 137 Days

Emma Morano, an Italian supercentenarian and one of the world’s oldest people, was born on November 29, 1899, in Civiasco, Italy.

Throughout her remarkable life spanning 117 years and 137 days, Morano experienced significant events such as the two World Wars, the Italian Empire’s rise and fall, and the country’s transformation into a republic.

She worked in a jute factory until the age of 65 and then spent her remaining years in her small apartment.

Morano attributed her longevity to a unique diet that included raw eggs and minimal amounts of meat, as well as her decision to end an unhappy marriage in 1938.

Her resilience and zest for life made her an inspiration to many.

Continuing our journey through the lives of the world’s oldest people, we now meet Chiyo Miyako, a Japanese supercentenarian with a fascinating story.

Image of Chiyo Miyako of Japan - one of the world's oldest people to have ever lived.
Japanese supercentenarian, Chiyo Miyako, poses during a birthday celebration

9. Chiyo Miyako (Japan) | 117 Years, 81 Days

Chiyo Miyako, a Japanese supercentenarian and one of the world’s oldest people, was born on May 2, 1901, in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan.

During her impressive lifespan of 117 years and 81 days, Miyako witnessed the Russo-Japanese War, two World Wars, and Japan’s transformation from an empire to a modern economic powerhouse.

She was a devoted housewife and mother, dedicating her life to her family and enjoying hobbies such as calligraphy and travel.

Miyako never publicly shared a specific secret to her longevity, but her family attributed it to her positive outlook, strong bonds with loved ones, and a balanced diet.

Her gentle spirit and resilience in the face of life’s challenges made her an inspiration to many.

As we conclude our exploration of the world’s oldest people, we pay tribute to Gertrude Weaver, an American supercentenarian who left an indelible mark on history.

Image of Spanish supercentenarian Maria Branyas as a child in 1911.
Maria Branyas (sitting on fence) posing with her family in New Orleans in 1911

10. Maria Branyas (Spain) | Still living as of April 2024

Maria Branyas Morera, a Spanish supercentenarian, was for a period, the world’s oldest living person and one of the world’s oldest people in recorded history.

Born on March 4, 1907, in San Francisco, California, Maria moved to Catalonia, Spain, with her family when she was a child.

Throughout her remarkable life spanning 116 years, Maria has witnessed two World Wars, the Spanish Civil War, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

She worked as a seamstress and raised three children with her husband, whom she married in 1931.

Maria attributed her longevity to maintaining a positive attitude, staying mentally and physically active, and surrounding herself with loving family and friends.

Her resilience and zest for life have made her an inspiration to many, showcasing the beauty of aging gracefully.

As we conclude our exploration of the world’s oldest people, we are reminded of the valuable lessons and wisdom that these extraordinary individuals have shared with us throughout their long and meaningful lives.

Image of the the number 122 in granite, representing the highest age reached by the world's oldest people.
122 years (and 164 days) is the current record for the oldest person in history, Jeanne Calment

Wrap-up: The World’s Oldest People in History

In conclusion, exploring the lives of the world’s oldest people has been a fascinating journey through history.

From Jeanne Calment to Gertrude Weaver, these remarkable individuals have witnessed and experienced some of the most significant events of the past two centuries.

Their stories are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the potential for longevity that lies within each of us.

While their secrets to a long life varied, common themes emerged, such as strong family bonds, faith, positive attitudes, and balanced diets.

As we reflect on the lives of these extraordinary supercentenarians, we are reminded that the pursuit of a long and fulfilling life is not just about the number of years, but also about the quality of those years and the impact we leave on the world around us.

Image of a collection of old clocks.
A collection of clocks counting down the minutes, hours and years

FAQs: The World’s Oldest People in History

1. Who is the oldest man in recorded history?

Jiroemon Kimura, a Japanese supercentenarian, is recognized as the oldest man in recorded history. Born on April 19, 1897, in Kamiukawa, Japan, Kimura lived an astonishing 116 years and 54 days.


He experienced the reign of four Japanese emperors and witnessed significant events such as the Russo-Japanese War, two World Wars, and the rise of modern technology.


Kimura worked as a postal employee until his retirement at the age of 65 and then spent his days engaging in his favorite pastime, reading newspapers.


He attributed his longevity to eating small portions of food, practicing moderation, and maintaining a positive outlook on life.


Kimura passed away on June 12, 2013, leaving behind a legacy as the oldest verified male in history and an inspiration to those seeking to unlock the secrets of a long and fulfilling life.




2. Are there any genetic factors that contribute to exceptional longevity?

Genetic factors have been found to play a significant role in exceptional longevity, although the exact mechanisms are not yet fully understood.


Studies of supercentenarians and their families have identified specific gene variants that may contribute to their remarkable lifespans.


For example, some individuals with exceptional longevity have been found to possess variants of the FOXO3A gene, which is associated with insulin regulation and cell maintenance.


Additionally, variants of the APOE gene, which is linked to cardiovascular health and Alzheimer’s disease risk, have been found in lower frequencies among centenarians.


However, it is important to note that these genetic factors alone do not guarantee a long life, as environmental and lifestyle factors also play crucial roles.


Research suggests that a combination of favorable genetic predispositions, healthy habits, and positive environmental influences may work together to promote exceptional longevity in some individuals.




3. Do supercentenarians typically have a history of long-lived family members?

Many supercentenarians do indeed have a family history of longevity, suggesting that genetic factors and shared environmental influences may contribute to their exceptional lifespans.


Studies have shown that centenarians and supercentenarians are more likely to have siblings, parents, or grandparents who also lived to advanced ages compared to the general population.


For example, the siblings of centenarians have a higher probability of reaching the age of 100 themselves, indicating a potential genetic predisposition to longevity within these families.


Furthermore, supercentenarians often come from families with a lower incidence of age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disorders and certain types of cancer.


This suggests that they may have inherited a combination of genetic variants that protect against these conditions and promote a longer, healthier life.


However, it is crucial to recognize that while a family history of longevity can be an important factor, it is not the sole determinant of exceptional lifespan, as lifestyle choices and environmental factors also play significant roles in an individual’s overall health and longevity.




References: The World’s Oldest People in History

“Infographic: The Oldest People in the World.” Statista Infographics, www.statista.com/chart/8978/the-oldest-people-on-earth/.

Magazine, Smithsonian, and Brigit Katz. “Kane Tanaka, World’s Oldest Person, Dies at 119.” Smithsonian Magazine, www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/kane-tanaka-dies-119-oldest-person-180973930/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2024.

Schwartz, Matthew S. “The World’s Oldest Person, Japan’s Kane Tanaka, Dies at Age 119.” NPR, 25 Apr. 2022, www.npr.org/2022/04/25/1094630648/the-worlds-oldest-person-japans-kane-tanaka-dies-at-age-119.

Tabachnick, Cara. “World’s Oldest Person, U.S.-Born Spanish Woman, Turns 116 – CBS News.” Www.cbsnews.com, 5 Mar. 2023, www.cbsnews.com/news/maria-branyas-morera-worlds-oldest-person-u-s-born-spanish-woman-age-116/. Accessed 5 Apr. 2024.

“The World’s Oldest People and Their Secrets to a Long Life.” Guinness World Records, 1 Oct. 2020, www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2020/10/the-worlds-oldest-people-and-their-secrets-to-a-long-life-632895.