Worldwide, the average lifespan for men is 68 years and the average lifespan for women is 72 over the period of 2010 to 2015. Of course, not everyone is fortunate enough to meet the average lifespan. And then there are people who are fortunate enough to reach the average lifespan. And then there are others who not only surpass the average lifespan but they surpass it by many years. Many, many years.
A supercentenarian is the term used for someone who has lived to or passed their 110th birthday. Only about one in 1,000 centenarians become supercentenarians, making it a remarkable feat for anyone who gets to live that long. Supercentenarians live all over the world, but most of the world’s oldest hail from Japan. As of December 2, there are 19 verified living supercentenarians living in Japan. The U.S. is in second place with seven. The number of living supercentenarians is estimated to be anywhere between 150 and 600. It’s difficult to really know the exact number because not all supercentenarians are known to researchers at a given time and because some supercentenarian claims haven’t been proven yet.
You’ll be surprised at how long some of the people on this list lived, almost as surprised as they were to have attained such a lengthy lifespan. Be sure to take note of what the secrets to their long lives are. Who knows? You might be a supercentenarian one day.
15 Gertrude Baines (115 Years, 158 Days)
Gertrude Baines was born in Shelman, Georgia in 1894. She married at a young age and had a daughter, but her daughter died of typhoid fever when she was 18. Gertrude moved from Hartford, Connecticut to Ohio where she worked as a maid at Ohio State University before moving many years later to Los Angeles, California. She lived on her own until 1999 when she was 105, then was moved to the Western Convalescent Home in Jefferson Park, Los Angeles where she lived until she died in 2009.
Gertrude enjoyed the “simple pleasures” in life, living on a diet that consisted of bacon and eggs and black-eyed peas and watching shows like The Price Is Right and Jerry Springer. When she was asked what the secret to her long life was, she said, “God. Ask Him...I took good care of myself, the way He wanted me to.”
14 Edna Parker (115 Years, 220 Days)
Edna Parker was born on a farm in Shelby, Indiana in 1893. She taught at a two-room schoolhouse in Smithland, Indiana for several years until she married her neighbor in 1913. They had two sons, both of whom Edna outlived. Her husband died in 1939. As of April 2008, she had five grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren, and thirteen great-great-grandchildren. Edna lived by herself on a farm until 1993 when she was 100 then moved in with her oldest son, Clifford. She moved into a nursing home following a minor accident and stayed there until her death in 2008.
Edna loved reading and reciting poetry, especially the works of James Whitcomb Riley, and liked to recite poetry to visitors. In 2007, President George W. Bush sent her a letter on her 114th birthday, thanking her for “sharing her wisdom and experiences” with younger generations.
13 Christian Mortensen (115 Years, 252 Days)
Christian Mortensen was born in the village of Skårup, near the city of Skanderborg, Denmark in 1882. He began working as a tailor’s apprentice at 16, then eventually started working as a farmhand. Christian emigrated to the U.S. in 1903, traveling around while working as a tailor before settling in Chicago. He was married for less than 10 years, divorced, and had no children; he didn’t remarry. In 1978, when he was 96, he moved to a retirement home in San Rafael, California, claiming to have ridden his bicycle there.
Christian smoked a cigar occasionally and enjoyed a vegetarian diet. He was legally blind towards the end of his life and spent most of his time in a wheelchair listening to the radio until his death in 1998. His advice for a long life was, “Friends, a good cigar, drinking lots of good water, no alcohol, staying positive and lots of singing will keep you alive for a long time.”
12 Jeralean Talley (116 Years, 25 Days)
Jeralean Talley was born in Georgia in 1899. Her early years were spent picking cotton and harvesting sweet potatoes. In 1935, she moved to Inkster, Michigan where she would remain for the rest of her life until her death in 2015. She married the next year and had a daughter the following year. Jeralean had three grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and 4 great-great-grandchildren.
She stayed active in her later life by sewing dresses, making quilts, and playing slot machines. She bowled until she was 104 but was forced to give the sport up after her knees got too weak. However, she continued to go on annual fishing trips with a friend and his son. Jeralean was well-known around her community for her wisdom and wit and was asked for advice on multiple occasions. In regard to her old age, she said, “There’s nothing I can do about it.”
11 Jiroemon Kimura (116 Years, 54 Days)
Jiroemon Kimura was born Kinjiro Miyake in the fishing village of Kamuikawa in the Kyoto Prefecture, Japan in 1897. He finished school at the age of 14 and started working from local post offices around the age of 17. During the 1920’s, he worked as a government communications worker in Korea under Japanese rule. After returning to Japan, he married his neighbor and had seven children, five of whom survived him. He also had 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and 15 great-great-grandchildren.
In 1962, Jiroemon retired at the age of 65, having worked in postal offices for 45 years. He went back to farming and continued to farm until he was 90. He woke up early every morning and read the newspaper with a magnifying glass. The key to a long and healthy life, he believed, was eating small portions of food. He died of natural causes in 2013.
10 Elizabeth Bolden (116 Years, 118 Days)
Elizabeth Bolden was born in Somerville, Tennessee in 1890. She married in 1908 and had her first child, a son, the following year. In the years that followed, she had two more sons and four daughters. Only two daughters were alive as of Bolden’s death in 2006. As of her 116th birthday, she had 40 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren, 150 great-great-grandchildren, 220 great-great-great-grandchildren, and 75 great-great-great-great-grandchildren.
She stayed in a nursing home in Memphis, Tennessee and was unable to communicate, according to her family. As such, they asked that media attention, such as interviews and visits, be restricted. At the time when she was the world’s oldest person, she was rarely seen in public. When asked for the secret to her longevity by a reporter for a newspaper, she responded with, “I don’t know.”
9 Gertrude Weaver (116 Years, 276 Days) - No Chronic Health Problems
Gertrude Weaver was born in Lafayette County, Arkansas in 1898. She married in 1915 and had four children. At the time of her 116th birthday, only one of her children was alive at the time of her death in 2015. When she was 104, she moved into the Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation Center in Camden, Arkansas after she broke her hip. After completing rehab and recovering from her injury, she moved back home but returned to the center five years later.
Following her 115th birthday, her health somewhat deteriorated, but she still participated in activities at the nursing home. Unlike other people her age, Gertrude had no chronic health problems. She slept well and didn’t drink or smoke. She told the Associated Press that three factors that contributed to her longevity were “trusting in the Lord, hard work, and loving everybody.”
8 María Capovilla (116 Years, 347 Days)
María Capovilla was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1889. As the daughter of a colonel, she lived among the upper-class elite, attending social functions and art classes. She married a military officer in 1917 and they had five children, three of whom were still alive at the time of Maria’s death in 2006. She also had twelve grandchildren, twenty great-grandchildren, and two great-great-grandchildren.
María watched TV, read the newspaper, and walked without the need for a walking stick (though she was helped by an aide). In the two years before her death, she was not able to leave her home and shared her house with her eldest daughter and son-in-law. Her health continued to deteriorate in the months that followed but she was able to sit in her chair and fan herself until she succumbed to pneumonia a week before her death.
7 Misao Okawa (117 Years, 27 Days)
Misao Okawa was born in Osaka, Japan in 1898. She married in 1919 and had three children, two daughters, and a son; her son and one of her daughters survived her. She had four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Misao was able to walk until she was 110 then started using a wheelchair to prevent falls. She was capable of propelling herself using her wheelchair, however.
According to her, sushi and sleep were the reasons for how she was able to live so long. On her 117th birthday, she remarked that her life seemed short. When asked for the secret to her long lifespan, she jokingly responded, “I wonder about that too.” She died of heart failure in 2015.
6 Nabi Tajima (117 Years, 120 Days, And Counting)
Nabi Tajima was born in Wan Village, now known as Kikai Town, in Kagoshima, Japan in 1900. She had nine children with her husband, who enjoyed a long life as well, dying at the age of 95. As of September 2011, Nabi had 28 grandchildren, 56 great-grandchildren, and 35 great-great-grandchildren. As of September 2015, she had over 140 descendants, including great-great-great-grandchildren. As of September 2017, she had around 160 descendants.
She primarily eats ramen noodles and rice mackerel sushi. She is the world’s oldest living person and the last surviving person born in the 19th century. In addition to that, she is the oldest Japanese and Asian person ever. Since February of 2002, she’s been staying in a nursing home in Kikai, Kagoshima.
5 Emma Morano (117 Years, 137 Days)
Emma Morano was born in Civiasco, Vercelli, Piedmont, Italy in 1899. Emma married in 1926 and had one child in 1937, but the child died when he was only six months old. She and her husband didn’t have a happy marriage, and Emma eventually drove him out of their house. Emma worked at a jute factory until 1954, then started working in the kitchen at a boarding school in Verbania, Italy where she worked until she retired at 75.
Her family was a long-lived one. Her mother, an aunt, and some of her siblings reached the age of 90, and one of her sisters died when she was 102. When she was asked for the secret to her longevity, she credited her long life to a diet of raw eggs and cookies and to staying single. She died in her home in April.
4 Violet Brown (117 Years, 189 Days)
Violet Brown was born in Duanvale, Trelawny, British Jamaica in 1900. She was born when Jamaica was still a part of the British Empire and was the last known living subject of Queen Victoria. She married and had six children, four of whom were still alive at the time of her death in September. In an interview with The Jamaica Observer, Violet claimed that she was healthier than her remaining children and had no illnesses.
She also claimed that there was no real secret to her lengthy lifespan, telling The Jamaica Observer, “Really and truly, when people ask what I eat and drink to live so long, I say to them that I eat everything, except pork and chicken, and I don’t drink rum and dem tings [sic].” She was the oldest verified Jamaican person ever and the first verified supercentenarian from Jamaica.
3 Marie-Louise Meilleur (117, 230 Days)
Marie-Louise Meilleur was born in Kamouraska, Quebec in 1880. She married her first husband in 1900. Following the deaths of him and her parents in 1911 and 1912, respectively, she left two of her four surviving children and moved to the Ontario border. She remarried in 1915 and had six more children. After her second husband died in 1972, she moved in with her daughter, then moved into a nursing home.
Marie-Louise smoked tobacco well into her nineties. Out of her 12 children, only four survived her. She had 85 grandchildren, 80 great-grandchildren, 57 great-great-grandchildren, and four great-great-great-grandchildren. By the time she died in 1998, one of her sons was residing in the same nursing home as her and her oldest daughter was 90. Marie-Louise is the oldest verified Canadian ever.
2 Sarah Knauss (119 Years, 97 Days)
Sarah was born in Hollywood, Pennsylvania in 1880. She married in 1901 and gave birth to her only child, a daughter, in 1903. In addition to being a homemaker, Sarah was also a manager for an insurance company. Sarah lived through seven wars involving the U.S., including both World War 1 and World War 2, and the administrations of 23 presidents, from Rutherford B. Hayes to Bill Clinton. She attributed the secret of her longevity to not letting things upset her.
In 1998, when she learned that she had become the world’s oldest person following the death of Marie-Louise Meilleur, she simply smiled and said, “So what?” She died in a retirement home in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1999. State senator Charlie Dent, who attended Sarah’s 115th birthday party in 1995, said, “Mrs. Knauss was an extraordinary woman who pushed the outer limits of longevity. This is a sad occasion, but she certainly had an eventful life.”
1 Jeanne Calment (122 Years, 164 Days)
Jeanne Calment was born in Arles, Bouches-du-Rhone, Southern France in 1875. Jeanne graduated from a local college when she was 16 and married in 1896 at the age of 21. They had only one child, a daughter. Jeanne had never been ill and continued cycling until her hundredth birthday. Some of her immediate family members enjoyed above-average lifespans. Her older brother died when he was 97, her father when he was 92, and her mother when she was 86.
She lived on her own from when she was 88 until shortly before her 110th birthday, electing to move into a nursing home. Every day, she made a fruit salad that consisted of banana slices and squeezed orange and smoked a cigarette following lunch. She also smoked a cigarette before going to bed. Jeanne died in 1997 of unspecified causes. She has the longest confirmed human lifespan and the only person verified to live 120 years or beyond.