The world's oldest person, Kane Tanaka dies aged 119

The world’s oldest person, Kane Tanaka dies aged 119

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The world’s oldest person, Japanese woman Kane Tanaka, has died in Japan aged 119.

According to a statement released by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Tanaka passed away on the 19th April, making her the second oldest verified person in history, having lived 119 years and 107 days. 

Tanaka was born on January 2, 1903, the same year as George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, Aaron Siskind and Bing Crosby. 

In January 2019, Guinness World Records confirmed Tanaka as the oldest living person at the age of 116 years and 28 days.

On Monday, the group tweeted their sadness at hearing the news of Tanaka’s passing, adding that her death has been confirmed by Robert Young, the senior gerontology consultant who assisted in confirming Tanaka’s record as the oldest person alive three years ago. 

Earlier this month, Tanaka’s family tweeted news about the supercentenarian, saying she had been struggling with sickness and “in and out of hospital.”

Tanaka was born in the village of Wajiro on January 2nd, 1903 — a seaside town on the southern island of Kyushu, Japan. She was the seventh child of nine siblings.

At 19, she married her cousin, Hideo Tanaka, and the pair went on to have four children, as well as adopt Kane’s niece.

For many decades, the couple ran a foods store together, selling noodles and traditional Japanese desserts.

Tanaka survived cancer more than once — at 45, she underwent pancreatic cancer surgery. At 103, she had colorectal cancer surgery. She witnessed two world wars, the 1918 Spanish flu, and the recent Covid-19 pandemic.

Tanaka was set to participate in the Olympic torch relay at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, though pulled out due to health concerns. 

Since 2018, Tanaka had been living in a nursing home in Fukuoka, where she apparently spent her time doing maths activities and practising calligraphy. 

In January 2020, Tanaka’s great-granddaughter, Junko Tanaka set up a Twitter account to chart the supercentenarian’s extraordinary life.

She tweeted photos of Tanaka’s favourite treats, such as chocolate and Coke. 

In January, Junko said of her great-grandmother: “I might be biased because I’m related to her but I think it’s kind of amazing — I wanted to share that with the world and for people to feel inspired and to feel her joy.”

Japan has the most elderly population in the world, with one in every 1,565 people over 100 years old and 88 per cent of them being women. 

Government data from 2020 showed that women have a life expectancy of 87.45 years and 81.4 for men.

The country is also identified as one of the five ‘Blue Zones’ — regions of the world that are believed to have a higher than usual number of people who live much longer than average.

The term was coined by scholar Gianni Pes and demographer Michel Poulain, and the zones include Okinawa in Japan, Sardinia in Italy, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Icaria in Greece and Loma Linda in California. 

The title of oldest-ever living person remains with Jeanne Calment, who lived to the age of 122  and 164 days, and who died in August 1997. 

With Tanaka’s passing, the world’s oldest person now is Lucile Randon, at 118-year-old. 

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