Talk about leading a full life… Edna Parker (pictured right), the world’s oldest person, has died at age 115. Reading about Ms. Parker, I learned a new term – supercentenarian. It’s defined as anyone who reaches the amazingly small club of 110-year-olds.
The ever pervasive question is, of course, what was her secret to longevity? She apparently didn’t offer much in the way of advice. However, she claimed to not have ever drank alcohol or smoked.
“She kept active,” said her grandson Don Parker, 60. Describing his trips to her nursing home he said: “We used to go up there, and she would be pushing other patients in their wheelchairs.”
Her only actual advice to those who gathered to celebrate when she became the oldest person was “more education.” With that oblique bit of guidance, I began to wonder what other supercentenarians had attributed their longevity to. So, I did a bit of research, and this is what I came up with from the two oldest known people in history:
The oldest authenticated person in history was a French woman named Jeanne Calment. She lived to the staggering age of 122. Born on February 21, 1875 and passing away on August 4, 1997, amazingly she smoked until she was 117.
Countering that death-defying feat, Calment never had to work, since she married into wealth. Instead, she reportedly led a relaxed lifestyle, pursuing hobbies like tennis, cycling, swimming, and roller skating.
More peculiar practices included eating more than two pounds of chocolate a week (see picture below) and treating her skin with olive oil. The latter may explain why she looked as good as she did.
“I think she was someone who, constitutionally and biologically speaking, was immune to stress,” said Jean-Marie Robine, a public health researcher. “She once said, ‘If you can’t do anything about it, don’t worry about it.'”
Sarah Knauss, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, lived to 119. The second oldest person in history shared one thing in common with the oldest – a calm demeanor. Her relatives attributed her longevity to this fact. When she was told by her family that she was the oldest living person, her response was “So what?”.
Living well past the century mark probably has much more to do with genetics than anything else. When you see the oldest person ever to have smoked for about a century and ate pounds of chocolate every week, that’s pretty strong evidence. However, for the rest of us non-genetic freaks of nature, we’ll need to stick with the tried and true exercise and good nutrition. And remember not to sweat the small stuff.
December 2nd, 2008