World's oldest ever man dies aged 116

2013-06-12 11:00
This picture taken by Kyotango Government in April 2013 shows the world's oldest person Jiroemon Kimura smiling as he celebrates his 116th birthday. (Kyotango Government/ AFP)

This picture taken by Kyotango Government in April 2013 shows the world's oldest person Jiroemon Kimura smiling as he celebrates his 116th birthday. (Kyotango Government/ AFP)

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Tokyo - The world's oldest person and the oldest man ever to have lived has died of natural causes aged 116, officials in Japan said on Wednesday.

Jiroemon Kimura, who was born in 1897, died in hospital early on Wednesday morning "from old age", an official in Kyoto's Kyotango city said in a statement.

Kimura, who was from Kyotango, was hospitalised in early May suffering from pneumonia. A few days ago doctors noted that his condition was worsening.

Kimura was recognised by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest living person in December 2012, after a woman from the United States died at the age of 115.

That month he also broke another record when he was verified as the oldest man ever to have lived, after reaching the age of 115 years and 253 days.

However, he was well off the all-time record set by French woman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122, making her the longest living person in history.

Kimura, who was born the same year as American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, celebrated his 116th birthday in April, receiving a pre-recorded video greeting from Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Eat light, live long

The centenarian had seven children, 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grand children and 15 great-great grandchildren, and worked at a post office for about 40 years. After retiring he took up farming which he continued to do until the age of 90.

He did not smoke and only ate until he was 80% full, the local official told AFP.

Kimura's motto in life was "to eat light and live long", the official added.

The mayor of Kyotango will pay his respects at Kimura's house while the city hall will prepare a place for a book of condolences, the official said.

"I heard a wake will be tomorrow and a funeral the day after tomorrow," he said.

"Mr Kimura was popular among residents so we expect many people to visit to sign condolences," he added.

Doubtful claim


Encouraged by Kimura and 94 other people in Kyotango who will this year be 100 years old or more, the 60 000-strong city, together with 36 other municipalities, is planning to launch a research project to examine their diets and find the secrets of their longevity.

On Tuesday a woman who Chinese officials said was 127 years old - although international authorities never recognised the claim - died.

Official documents said that Luo Meizhen was born in 1885, which would make her the oldest person ever to have lived, but she died at the weekend after months of illness, her son Huang Youhe told AFP.

"She was 127 when she died, it wasn't unexpected," her grandson Huang Heyuan said.

Luo's declared birth date means she may have been the oldest person in the world when she died, ahead of Kimura.

But Luo's claim met with little recognition internationally because China did not have a reliable birth certification system until decades after she was born.

Scepticism was further fuelled by reports of the youthfulness of her sons, one of whom she was said to have given birth to at the age of 61.
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