116 years and smiled to the end


Jiroemon Kimura

This is Jiroemon Kimura who passed away today at the grand old age of 116; officially the world’s oldest man. His secret? Being positive and happy – guess I’m going to die next Tuesday then.

He was officially classified as a Supercentenarian, which means he reached his 110th birthday and there are only around sixty verified examples in the world. Consider that for a moment – people like Mr Kimura at 116 was born in 1897 when  Enid Blyton, Amelia Earhart and Joseph Goebbels were all born ad we consider them to be truly historical names but here was a man until today who had seen the world change in unbelievable ways. He worked until he was 90 years old helping out on his son’s farm and never overate according to his family – “Eat light and live long” was one of his sayings.

What I find slightly weird about this story is that rather than celebrate the life of an amazing man, the media seem obsessed with who is the next oldest person who now inherits the title. There is a macabre air that they are waiting to go and see the next person in line now, and the next, and the next… The oldest verified person ever was a French Woman called Jeanne Calment who died in 1997 at the age of 122 which beggars belief really that someone could live that long.

My Great Granda Duncan McDonald was ninety-nine when he died in the year 2000 just a couple of months short of his century. I always remember him saying he didn’t want to reach one hundred because he didn’t want the Provost sticking their nose in so they could get a photo with him for their own publicity. He said he’d rather die than give them the satisfaction! The old man got his wish, but I remember him talking about his life and all the changes he had seen here in the UK. For a country like Japan where Mr Kimura lived he must have experienced even bigger changes as Japan has grown and developed in amazing ways over the last century.

I doubt I’ll see my century – I’ll be lucky to see my feet again the way my stomach is growing – and I’m not sure I’d really want to anyway. The chances of you still having all your family and friends around you at that age is not great. I remember at Granda McDonald’s funeral how few people were there, because he’d out lived them all. To watch everyone you love and care for go before you must be so difficult and I’m guessing a season ticket for the local Crematorium is not anyone’s idea of fun. As the American humourist Jack Handey once said When I die, I want to go peacefully like my Grandfather did — in my sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car.


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