Loving Life to the Last Breath

by Ann Samuel on August 15, 2007 at 1:31 PM
Loving Life to the Last Breath

According to her care taker, the world's oldest person Yone Minagawa,who has died at 114, was as sprightly as ever until her last sleep. Minagawa, who enjoyed good food and a bit of alcohol, died Monday at a nursing home in Japan's southwestern Fukuoka prefecture.

"She was sprightly until a day before," the caretaker told AFP. "When I found her, she looked as if she was sleeping peacefully."


Born on January 4, 1893, Minagawa was widowed at an early age. She raised her five children by selling flowers and vegetables in a coal mining town.

Stout-hearted even after age 100, Minagawa would drink some Japanese sake or other alcoholic beverage every day, although in more recent years her favourite treat became sweets.

"She would tell me, 'arigato, thank you,'" saying the phrase both in Japanese and English, the caretaker said. "That was her habit."

"She was very charming," said the caretaker, who declined to give her name.

Minagawa -- born the same year as Mao Zedong and Mae West -- counted her healthy appetite and getting a good night's sleep as the secrets of her longevity.

"She was the type of person who would always show such compassion for other people," said one of her grandchildren, Akitoshi Yasunaga, quoted by Jiji Press. "I believe she lived out her life."

Her reign as the world's oldest person lasted just over six months. The Guinness Book of World Records certified her as the world's oldest person after Emma Faust Tillman, the daughter of freed American slaves, died in January.

The next to become the world's oldest person is set to be another American woman, according to the International Committee on Supercentenarians, a US-based group which documents longevity records.

Edna Parker, who lives in the midwestern state of Indiana, is also 114, having been born on April 20, 1893, according to the group.

Japanese women are the world's oldest living people, with an expectancy of 85.81 years, in what experts attribute to a traditionally healthy diet and a high standard of medical care.

More than 28,000 Japanese are 100 years or older, up from a mere 1,000 at the start of the 1980s.

Following Minagawa, the oldest person in Japan is Shitsu Nakano, 113, who also lives in a nursing home in Fukuoka prefecture. She is now fourth among the world's supercentenarians.

Southern Japan, with its more balmy climate, is particularly renowned for longevity.

The world's oldest man is also Japanese -- Tomoji Tanabe, a 111-year-old who lives in southern Miyazaki prefecture.

Japanese men are the world's second oldest with a life expectancy of 78.8 -- second only to men in Iceland, who on average live to be 79.4.

However, the longevity is a mixed blessing for a country with a declining birthrate, with the government fearing that a small pool of workers will eventually be supporting a mass of pensioners.

Source: AFP
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