Can I live another 66 years? I’m turning 50 next month and started to feel like my life is changing. But I’m not even halfway through in the world of today’s oldest person alive, the 116-year Kane Tanaka from Fukuoka Prefecture. This Othello game and chocolate lover was presented with her Guinness World Record certificate on March 9. After watching a news footage of her at the award ceremony, she’s become my new hero.

On that news, she was captured as walking into a ceremony venue with a walking aid. While a nurse was walking right behind her, so that she could provide an immediate assistance should the awardee fall, Kane san vowed several times while walking right to the sofa. After a Guinness World Records representative officially announced, in English, their recognition of Kane san as the oldest person alive, she looked deeply grateful, reflective, and responded, “Thank you very much”, in English.

I can’t help but wonder what her 116 years have been like. Kane san was 66 years old when I was born in 1969. I know from the media that:

  • Kane san was born Jan. 2, 1903, in Fukushima city, Fukushima prefecture, as the seventh among eight children.
  • She married Hideo Tanaka in 1922.
  • They had four children and adopted another child.
  • She lost her husband and one of their sons during World War II.
  • She ran a small business selling rice until she was 63, and
  • She travelled frequently, including overseas destination such as Hawaii, Colorado and California.

In 2005, Kane san moved into a nursing home in Fukuoka prefecture. Apparently, she is very active all day everyday, waking up by 6am, playing board games and maths drills. On the contrary to the stereotype of elderly people in Japan, she consumes junk food, particularly chocolate, and not-so-healthy soft drinks on a daily basis. When she hears news that her fellow residents are sick, she pays visits, encouraging them, “Hang in there!”

When I told Marcin about Kane san and her background this morning, he seemed impressed. But, he didn’t look not too surprised that another Japanese woman became the oldest person alive. Actually the last three oldest persons were all Japanese women. We are high achievers. He didn’t even lift his face away from his computer as I told him about her. But this information caught his full attention.

“Kane san apparently eats chocolate everyday”.

He beamed with joy, and became reflective with his arms crossed at his chest:

“Chocolate. That’s happiness. I knew it. That’s the secret of long life.”

I’m not sure if chocolate is the main factor in long life, but he is right that happiness is. I tend to think the worst of many things and probably 30% of my everyday is consumed with worrying.

When Kane san turned 115 last year, she was interviewed by Japanese media. As the journalist asked her how much longer she thinks she could make (a rather rude question if you ask me), she said, “I feel so grateful and I just don’t feel I’m going to die.”

One year later, she was there walking humbly but steadily on her own feet, receiving the amazing award of the oldest person alive, thanking everyone in English. She doesn’t seem worried at all at aged 115. I’m 50 and worried constantly.

Often Japanese people’s longevity is accredited to healthy dietary culture. I’m sure that contributes, but there is certainly more to that. Learning from Kane san, I should start giving my worry a rest.

Marcin, meanwhile, is apparently going to adopt her dietary habits of eating chocolate everyday. I wish I could be half as easy going.