Advancements in medicine and technology have resulted in fewer infections and accidents, enabling us to thrive much longer than before. Because of this, more people are living longer and those that have made it past their 110th birthday have been dubbed supercentenarians. These supercentenarians have become overnight sensations, making headlines around the world for their impressive and rare lifespans.
Some supercentenarians have the honor of holding the record for oldest living person in the world. The surprising thing is that many of these record-holding supercentenarians are only in the limelight for a short time before passing away. Gertrude Weaver, a 116-year-old Arkansas resident, passed away two days after becoming the world’s oldest living person. People are living longer on average, yet the oldest have been passing away around the same age for the past few decades, reaching an upper limit of 114.
Robert Young, a senior claims researcher for the Gerontology Research Group and the senior gerontology consultant for Guinness World Records, calls this trend the “rectangularization of the mortality curve”. According to the research group, the oldest person holds their position for about a year on average. Interestingly, over the past 40 years the average age of the oldest people has only increased from 112 to 114. There were two exceptions: Jeanne Calment, who lived to be 122, and Sarah Knauss, who lived to be 119 years old. These two women are the only people known to pass the age of 118.
Another interesting fact is that the majority of supercentenarians are women, making up 90% of all instances. Women have two X chromosomes while men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, and some scientists attribute this fact to why women live longer, saying that the second X acts like a backup chromosome.
The current supercentenarian to hold the record for being the oldest living person is a woman named Jeralean Talley. Talley is currently 116-years-old and in good health. As with all record holders, the Gerontology Research Group has verified her age through documents. Over time, the verification process has gotten easier as more documents have become available online, allowing researchers like Young to disprove invalid claims. Young thinks that as data collection gets better we’ll find more supercentenarians around the world, but for now many of them are from the United States and Japan.
This is not surprising given the Okinawans of Japan are some of the longest-living people on Earth and have been studied for their methods to live long and healthy lives. The Balanced Care Method™, a program developed by Home Care Assistance, is based off of these studies and focuses on a healthy diet, physical exercise, socialization, mindfulness and a sense of purpose to promote healthy longevity and enhance the lives of the seniors we serve.