Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of additional years a person can expect to live.

The most common practice of measurement starts at birth; for example a life expectancy of 85 years means that a person can expect (or is expected) to live exactly that long. But it is all hypothetical measure which differs considerably by geographic location, race, sex, income per capita, and so on.

This is why life expectancy statistic is often given for specific groups or categories rather than for the general population worldwide.

The data for life expectancy changes every year, because the measure is heavily affected by current local conditions when the data is compiled.

For example the general population of Japan is estimated to have a life expectancy of 86 years in 2020, an increase from 85.3 years in 2017, according to The World Factbook.

The United States stands at number 45 with life expectancy at birth of 80.3 years. But those estimates are for the “average people” and such data has all the likelihood of being inaccurate.

Some people are “above average” and can live extraordinarily long to surpass what the estimate suggests. Well, at least the following people did in their lifetime.

Here are 10 of the oldest humans in the world.

10 Kamato Hongo (September 16th, 1887 - October 31st, 2003) Age: 116 Years, 45 Days

A Japanese super-centenarian (a person living more than 110 years), Kamato Hongo was the oldest living person from March 2002 until his death in October 2003.

She had celebrated her 116th birthday a month before she passed away. Kamato Hongo claimed to have been born in Isen on 16 September 1887. Isen is located on the Tokunoshima Island of Kagoshima Perfecture, Japan. She lived in Kagoshima and died in the same town on 31 October 2003.

Born on the small island of Tokunoshima, she later moved to Kagoshima to live with her daughter. At her old age, Hongo apparently became quite a celebrity because her identity as super-centenarian was used for merchandising purpose by some companies.

Her name and photos would appear on phone cards, clothing, washcloth, and many other products. She even appeared on Japanese television a few times.

Assuming the claim is correct, she would have been 58 years old when World War II ended. However, her birth year has been found inconsistent in several documents; some records suggest that she was actually born on April 1886 while others state her birth year as 1887.

On top of that, her kesuki (Japanese family registry) lists her as the last child following a sister who was born on 1890. Some people hypothesized that Kamato Hongo’s age – or birth year – was changed to hide teenage pregnancies.

9 Carrie C. White (November 18th, 1874 - February 14th, 1991) Age: 116 Years. 88 Days

Carrie C. White was born on 18 November 1874 (at least according to her claim) in Havana, Florida. She later moved to Marion County, also in Florida along with her sister Marie. White claimed she was a kind woman and part of a big family with many brothers and sisters; she also stated that she taught piano and loved children. On September 1907, she married to John E. White.

Following a nervous breakdown in 1909, White was then institutionalized. It happened around the same time as her divorce. She suffered from typhoid fever leading to an episode of her brandishing her arms in an angry manner and shouting that “someone was harming the twins” despite the fact that she had no children from her marriage with John. But White did not stop there as she then threatened to harm herself. On the next day, she was admitted to Florida State Hospital.

According to her claim, she was 35 years old when this happened, but recent study through family tree reconstitution has indicated that White might have been 21 years old at that time, meaning she died at the age of 102 instead 116.

8 Elizabeth Bolden (August 15th, 1890 - December 11th, 2006) Age: 116 Years, 118 Days

Elizabeth Jones (later Bolden) was born on 15 August 1890 in the Town of Somerville, Tennessee. She was the daughter of freed slaves, and later married Lewis Bolden in 1908. Their first child, a son named Ezell, came to the world on 21 September 1909. In total, she had seven children; five of whom had passed away before she did.

Elizabeth Bolded died in Memphis, Tennessee on 11 December 2006, meaning she lived for 116 years and 118 days long. She was one of only a handful of people, who lived through the age of 116, and whose records are undisputed.

In August 2006 (at the time of her 116th birthday), Elizabeth Bolden had:

  • 40 Grandchildren
  • 75 Great-grandchildren
  • 150 Great-great grandchildren
  • 220 Great-great-great grandchildren
  • 75 Great-great-great-great grandchildren

Unlike the previous two, Elizabeth Bolden’s record has been properly reviewed and verified. There is no dispute to her birth year and the year she passed away. When the 1925 fire destroyed records of the Fayette County, Tennessee, her family actually had guessed that Elizabeth Bolden was born in 1891 but subsequent research confirmed she was one year older.

7 Tane Ikai (January, 18th 1879 - July 12th, 1995) Age: 116 Years, 175 Days

Ikai was born on 18 January 1890 in Aichi, Japan. Of all five Asians (all were Japanese) to make it through 116 years of age, Ikai was the first to go on record. The other four people including Nabi Tajima, Chiyo Miyako, Jiroemon Kimura, and Misao Okawa reached the same age about 20 years after Ikai had done it.

In the latest list of validated super-centenarians compiled by Gerontology Wiki (accessed on 14 February 2020), Ikai is now ranked 14th in the world and 5th in Japan. When Ikai was 113 years old, she suffered from a stroke that forced her to remain bedridden until her death in 1995 at the age of 116 years and 175 days. She died in Nagoya, Central Japan, reportedly of kidney failure.

The first person from the entire Asia to reach 116 years of age, Tane Ikai had never actually held the title as the oldest living person because her life coincided with another super-centenarian from a different part of the world, the French-born Jeanne Calment.

6 Maria Esther Heredia De Capovilla (September 14th, 1889 - August 27th, 2006) Age: 116 Years, 347 Days

Born in Ecuador on 14 September 1889, Capovilla was named the world’s oldest living person until the time of her death on 27 August 2006 at the age of 116 years and 347 days. Apparently she was also the oldest person ever documented to live in three centuries.

She was an upper-class woman and daughter of a high-ranking military official. She attended art classes and social conventions. She was never a smoker and did not drink hard liquor. At the age 100 years, Capovilla nearly died and was given last rites, but then she recovered and continued to enjoy reasonably good health (for her age) until her death.

Even at the age of 116 years, she was able to walk without aid, watch TV, and read newspapers. In March 2006, however, her health was going through rapid decline that she could no longer read, talk, or walk without help. She could sit upright and was reportedly in good condition. Just 18 days before her 117th birthday, she died of pneumonia.

5 Marie-Louise Meilleur (August 29th, 1880 - April 16th, 1998) Age: 117 Years, 230 Days

Born in Kamorusaka, Quebec to fisherman parents in 1880, Marie-Lousie had some Native-American ancestry, at least according to her family. She married Gerard Leclerc, who was another fisherman from her home village, when she was 18 years old. Form this marriage, they had six children.

In 1911 and 1912, Maria-Louise’ parents, husband, and two of her children died. The next year, she left two of her remaining children and moved to rural Ontario border to help her sister whose children were infected by diphtheria. She did return to Quebec area once in 1939.

She married to Hector Meilleur in 1915, and they had six children. Until the 1950’s, Marie-Louise lived in a wood house without hot water and electricity. Some people suggested that she was actually a vegetarian, but this is not yet confirmed.

However, she smoked tobacco until her old age and only quit smoking in 1982 at the age of 102. Marie-Louise died of a blood-clot in 1998 in Corbeil, Ontario at the age 117 years.

4 Lucy Hannah (July 16th, 1875 - March 21st, 1993) Age: 117 Years, 248 Days

The actual age of Lucy Hannah had been subject of dispute in at least two occasions. The first dispute was brought forward in 2003 by Social Security Administrations’ Kestenbaum. In this dispute, Lucy Hannah’s age by the time of her death was determined to be 117 years and 248 days instead of 118 years as she had claimed.

But the debate did not stop there because the more recent study by ‘The 110 Club” an online forum dedicated to super-centenarians (or at least a member of the club) has found some documents inconsistent with Lucy’s claimed birth year.

That being said and as it stands today, the Kestenbaum’s study is the most widely referenced. Lucy Hannah was born on 16 July 1875 in Alabama and she died in Michigan on 21 March 1993. Reaching the age of 117 years and 248 days, she was the oldest person to never hold the tile as the oldest living person. Jeanne Calment was five months older than Lucy Hannah.

3 Sarah Knauss (September 24th, 1880 - December 30th, 1999) Age: 119 Years, 97 Days

Born on 24 September 1880 in a small coal mining village of Hollywood, Pennsylvania, Knauss was the oldest person ever from the United States, and widely considered the second-oldest person with fully documented record in the world ever. The Guinness World Record recognized her as the world’s oldest living person from 16 April 1998 until the time of her death on 30 December 1999.

At the age 21 years, Sarah married Abraham Lincoln Knauss who had been originally a tanner before he became a prominent Republican leader in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania and recorder of deeds in 1937.

He retired in 1951 and passed away in 1965 at the age 86 years. Their only child named Kathryn Knauss Sullivan was a centenarian; she was 101 years old at the time of her death in 2005.

Sarah Knauss was also the oldest person to have ever lived in the United States. She moved with her daughter Kathryn at the age 104. Eventually she was moved to a nursing home in Allentown Pennsylvania in 1990 where she lived her final 9 years of her long life. She died of natural causes on 30 December 1999 just about 33 hours before the year 2000.

2 Shigechiyo Izumi (June 29th, 1865 - February 21st, 1986) Age: 120 Years, 237 Days

In Japan’s first census of 1871, Shigechiyo Izumi was recorded as six years old, meaning he was born on 1865. Assuming the claim of birth date is correct – 26 June 1865 – he would have lived for 120 years and 237 days when she died on 21 February 1986. This means he was older than any recognized male and second-oldest person ever just under Jeanne Calment.

Izumi claimed to have been born in Isen, apparently the same town where Kamato Hongo – another disputed super-centenarian – was also born. Until Calment surpassed his age in 1995, he would have been the oldest person ever. However in 1987 or about 14 months after his death, new evidence came to surface regarding his age.

Dispute was settled when Department of Epidemiology at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology reported that subsequent research into Izumi’s family registration records determined his age was only 105 when he died, although the government of Japan has never officially retracted the claim.

1 Jeanne Calment (February 21st, 1875 - August 4th, 1997) Age: 122 Years, 164 Days

Not only did Jeanne Calment defied monumental odds to reach the age of 122, actually surpassing the Biblical 120 years of Moses, but she also seemed to always find ways to enjoy her long life. Jeanne Louise Calment was born on 21 February 1875 in Arles, Provence, southeastern France.

She married Fernand Nicolas Calment on April 1896 at the age of 21. Her husband actually was her double second cousin as their paternal grandfathers were brothers, and their paternal grandmothers were sisters.

Apparently her husband was heir to a successful drapery business and thanks to that, Jeanne lived a relaxed lifestyle in which she never had to work. The couple lived in a spacious apartment above the family store where they also employed servants.

When Jeanne was 13 years old, she claimed to have seen Vincent van Gogh who died in 1890. She was first recognized for her longevity in 1988 at the age of 113 years.

Her long lifespan has been thoroughly documented; more studies have been published to verify her age than for other cases. She died of unspecified causes on 4 August 1997. Her name currently sits at the top of the list of oldest validated super-centenarians.

The Most Unusual Claim

More often than not, it is difficult to properly determine claim of super-centenarians mostly because of missing records. The list of the most recent super-centenarians are filled with people who were born in late 1800s or early 1900s when record-keeping was not as accurate as it is today. This is why some claims are still subjects of dispute, requiring more research to confirm.

One of the most outlandish assertions was made by Shirali Muslimov, who claimed to have lived for 168 years. Assuming this is correct, he would have lived 46 years longer than the current record-holder Jeanne Calment.

Living in the village of Barzavu, near the Iranian border, Muslimov even said that the angel of death couldn’t find way to reach him because he lived in mountainous area.

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