TOKYO – Jiroemon Kimura, a 115-year-old Japanese man born when Queen Victoria still reigned over the British Empire, became the oldest man in recorded history Friday, according to record keepers.
Kimura, of Kyotango, western Japan, was born April 19, 1897, in the 30th year of the Meiji era, according to Guinness World Records. That makes him 115 years and 253 days as of Friday, breaking the longevity record for men held by Christian Mortensen of California, who died in 1998 at the age of 115 years and 252 days. The oldest woman in recorded history, Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, died in 1997 at the age of 122.
“He has an amazingly strong will to live,” Kimura’s nephew Tamotsu Miyake, 80, said in an interview. “He is strongly confident that he lives right and well.”
Kimura is among 22 Japanese people on a list of the world’s 64 oldest people compiled by the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, highlighting the challenges facing Japan as its population ages. A combination of the world’s highest life expectancy, the world’s second-largest public debt and a below-replacement birthrate is straining the nation’s pension system, prompting the government to curb payouts, raise contributions and delay the age of eligibility.
Japan’s average life expectancy at birth is 83 years, a figure projected to exceed 90 for women by 2050. The number of Japanese centenarians rose to 51,376 as of September, and there are 40 centenarians per 100,000 people in the country,, according to Japan’s health ministry.
Kimura became the world’s oldest currently living person on Dec. 17, when 115-year-old Dina Manfredini of Iowa died, according to London-based Guinness.
Kimura lives with his grandson’s widow, Eiko Kimura, in a two-story wooden house he built in the 1960s. He has never suffered from serious diseases, can communicate and spends most of his time in bed, Eiko said.
His wife, Yae, died 34 years ago at the age of 74. Kimura’s living descendants include five children, 14 grandchildren, 25 Great-grandchildren and 13 great-great-grandchildren.
The United States has an estimated 80,000 centenarians, or about 25 per 100,000 people, according to researchers at the Okinawa Centenarian Study.