Supercentenarians: the ‘Superhumans’ born in the 19th century who only recently departed

Stefan Andrews
Featured image

It is an extraordinary achievement to surpass the age of 100, but perhaps what’s even more remarkable is making it to the level after that: become a super-centenarian and live more than 110 years.

For humans, this is, of course, quite rare. Statistics from the World Health Organization tell us that the average life expectancy at birth in 2016 worldwide was 72 years.

Only a few, perhaps blessed with their genes, have had the opportunity to blow out the birthday candles more than 110 times (and sometimes also their dental plates too).

Senior Group Friends Exercise Relax Concept

One man in Indonesia allegedly reached the age of 146. Unimaginable. Impossible. Right? The story concerns Mbah Gotho, from central Java, who was supposedly born on the last day of the year 1870.

While one can be more certain of the date when he died–which was April 30, 2017–it was difficult for experts to confirm his date of birth.

According to a local office which checked the documents of Gotho in 2016, the 1870 date was valid.

But no third party, such as the Guinness World Records, was able to verify the information. Another complication is that Indonesia started to issue ID cards only at the beginning of the 20th century.

Worlds oldest man, Mbah Gotho, celebrates his 146th birthday (Photo credit Jefta Images / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

It might not be completely accurate that Gotho indeed reached 146-years-old, but he was still a superhuman whose life likely spanned across three different centuries. Sadly, it was more than enough time for him to see many of those near and dear pass away: his ten siblings, four of his wives, and even the children.

Still, in the end, there were his grandchildren, and their children and their children’s children to support him in his old age. As early as 1992 he was making plans for his death, as that was the year when he purchased the grave site where he was laid to rest only last year. Throughout his lifetime Gotho rarely suffered from any illness.

Richard Arvin Overton (born May 11, 1906) is an American supercentenarian who, at age 112 years, is the oldest surviving U.S. war veteran and the oldest living man in the United States. Photo by Jordan Bonardi CC BY-SA 3.0

Unlike Mbah Gotho, other super-centenarians have been recognized for their outstanding age with a Guinness World Record, as holders of the world’s oldest title.

One of them, Emma Morano, was an Italian woman who lived from November 29, 1899, until April 2017, when she passed away at the age of 117. Morano’s private doctor who took care for her over the last decades of her lengthy life believed that a great factor in her longevity was her genes. At least two of Morano’s siblings are known to have lived up to 100 years of age, and their mother too lived until 91.

Emma Morano in 1900, aged one-year-old.

When the Italian woman celebrated her last birthday in November 2016, she shared the “secrets” to her longevity. She didn’t mention eating any healthy food such as fruits and vegetables. She said she ate three eggs a day through most of her life, on the advice of a doctor who treated her for anemia in her youth.

She carried on with this habit for most of her life, usually having two raw eggs for breakfast and a cooked one for lunch.

Emma Morano is seen at her 117th birthday in Verbania, northwest Italy, on November 29, 2016. (Xinhua via Getty Images)

She just might have been a record holder for the person who ate the most eggs over the course of a lifetime–some estimates point to a figure of roughly 100,000. Emma Morano also loved cookies and hated hospitals.

The last decades of her life she mostly spent in her apartment overlooking the Italian Lake Maggiore.

During her lifetime she survived the loss of her first husband, a volatile relationship with her next husband, and the loss of her only child at very early age.

When Morano died, she left the crown of world’s oldest to Violet Mosse Brown from Jamaica, who was also called “Aunt V.” The Jamaican woman was reportedly born on March 10, 1900, and because of that was one of the last remaining links to the 19th century (January 1st, 1901, is considered the first day of the 20th century).

In 2015 in Osaka, Japan. Japanese woman Misao Okawa was the oldest living person in the world as certified by the Guinness World Records. (Photo by Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images)

Brown gave an interview to the Associated Press in April 2017, saying that her key to longevity was the continual hard work she did over her life and also her unbreakable faith in God.

“This is what God has given me, so I have to take it — long life,” she said in the interview which was carried out in Duanvale, her hometown. She also shared that she spent a lot of her time working in the hills and that she regularly visited the church where she loved singing.

Brown passed away on September 15, 2017, also at the age of 117, and was the title-holder of world’s oldest for only about five months.

After her, a Japanese woman called Nabi Tajima was recognized with the prestigious honor.

100 year-old grandmother skydives for birthday

Tajima was born on August 4, 1900, and her death took place in April 2018. By the time her life ceased, she saw her family extended to more than 150 descendants. One of her grandchildren, aged 65, shared a statement that his grandmother “passed away as if falling asleep.”

Tajima is remembered as someone who greatly enjoyed traditional Japanese music and dances.

To put her great age into perspective: She would have been 45 years and two days old when the first of the two atomic bombs devastated the city of Hiroshima just to the northeast of her home in Kikai, in the Japanese archipelago’s southernmost area of Kagoshima.

Nabi Tajima, born August 4, 1900. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

Perhaps none of these people had vivid memories of the 19th century, considering that most of them were just babies at that point. But it is still fascinating that they were present across the entire 20th century and into the early 21st century. They saw and survived the unfolding of two world wars, probably the change of countless governments in their own countries, as well as the abrupt development of technology as of more recent days.

According to Guinness World Records, none of these people claims the title of the oldest male or female who has ever lived in recorded history. The official oldest living man was the Japanese Jiroemon Kimura who lived from April 18, 1897, until June 12, 2013, which means he had an amazing time of 116 years and 54 days on Earth.

Jeanne Louise Calment at age 20 in 1895

Among the women, the highest scoring “competitor” ever was the French-born Jeanne Louise Calment, who lived an astounding 122 years and 164 days.

Her life did not span across three different centuries, but that doesn’t make her any less of a superhuman. She was born in 1875 and died in 1997, according to Guinness.