Japan is no stranger to centenarians and super-centenarians with 54,397 of those living beyond the age of 100 celebrating the last ‘Respect the Aged’ national holiday last September. Currently home to the world’s oldest person, Misao Okawa will turn 116 years old this coming March 5.
The Osaka-born woman assumed the title of world’s oldest person when the former titleholder Jiroemon Kimura passed away last June at the age of 116. While most health experts attribute longevity to diet and exercise, Okawa says that eating and sleeping well is the key. “Eat and sleep and you will live a long time. You have to learn to relax,” she said. According to Tomohito Okada, head of the Kurenai retirement home in Osaka where Okawa has resided for the last 18 years, “Mrs. Okawa eats three large meals a day and makes sure that she sleeps eight hours a night.” He also added that Okawa’s favorite meal, mackerel sushi on vinegar-steamed rice is a must have for her “at least once every month.” Okawa has three children, two of which are still alive and in their 90s, four grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
The average lifespan of Japanese woman is now at 85.9, and they oftentimes outlive their male counterparts, as 87 percent make up the country’s centenarians. On the other hand, a Japanese man has an average lifespan of 79.6 years. Experts claim that long life of Japanese people can be attributed to an extensive healthcare system, community support, physical activity even at an old age, sense of belonging to a family, and healthy diet mostly of fish, vegetables, rice and fruit. However, Osaka University associate professor Yasuyuki Gondo, who specializes in geriatric psychology said, “When we surveyed centenarians, we found that the majority have enjoyed good mental health throughout their lives and have developed psychological adaptations to their situations as they have got older.”
Some conclude that people with a strong will, are outgoing, and have a sense of curiosity live longer. The following traits are seen in Okawa, as nurses from the retirement home saw her doing leg squats a few months after suffering a fall at the age of 102. Okawa intends to celebrate her 116th birthday and has even invited some members of the media to witness it. Okada said, “We will be having a cake, of course. But we will only be having three candles, one of each figure of her 116 years, because that many candles could be dangerous.”
[via The Telegraph]