The absurd global claim to citizenship of the world's oldest person took a sad turn on Tuesday as Japan's 116-year-old Jiroemon Kimura, the oldest living human on Earth (officially) passed away. His death capped a particularly fatal 18 months for the eldest of the planet's elders, but it provided plenty of fodder for strange local news stories — and the title for oldest person alive now appears to reside with Japan's Misao Okawa, though she's got a slew of American supercentenarians, and more men than usual, nipping at her heels.
"Kimura, of Kyotango, Japan, was born April 19, 1897," the Associated Press reports. "Officials in Kyotango said he died in a local hospital, where he had been undergoing treatment for pneumonia." To put his lifespan in perspective, Kimura was born the same year Bayer first invented aspirin and Dos Equis first brewed beer; he was older than the first airplane. Which is amazing, but sad.
And death may be inevitable, but when there are superlatives involved, there's also strange intrigue: Kimura's death arrived in the same month as the death of China's Luo Meizhen, who was unofficially the world's oldest person at 127, or so Chinese officials claimed. Trouble is, Luo was literally older than birth certificates — they were first issued in her Guangxi region in 1949, the International Business Times reported. Before Kimura succumbed to his illness, the oldest person alive was American Dina Manfredini, who died this past December at 115 years old. Manfredini died less than two weeks after the death of Earth's oldest living person before her, 116-year-old American Besse Cooper. And 2012 also met the death of Canada's oldest person and Pakistan's (unverified) 151-year-old Talib Samejo. Unsurprisingly, the oldest people in the world tend to pass away due to natural causes.
Kimura was an underdog by virtue of his sex. According to the Gerontology Research Group, men are a rarity in the world of supercentenarians. Here's a snapshot of their top 10 oldest people still with us, which proves that women dominate at living really long — and that the U.S. has a strong crop of super-livers in this very strange medal count of sorts:
The oldest man on that list is James McCoubery, an American born in Canada who is 111, and there only three other men on the GRG's verified list of 55 supercentenarians. The playing field may be evening out, but that doesn't make the game any less morbid.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.