Dina Manfredini of Iowa died on Monday at 115, passing on the mantle of “world’s oldest person” to Jiroemon Kimura of Tokyo, who was born on April 19, 1897 — 15 days after Manfredini — the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed yesterday.
But not so fast, says Xinhua. In a story published two hours ago, it reports that the world’s real oldest person is actually Chinese, and apparently 127 years old:
According to the report, Luo Meizhen, a 127-year-old woman of Yao ethnicity in southwest China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is the oldest person living on the Chinese mainland.
The report was from the China Gerontological Society, which tallies 47,773 centenarians on the Chinese mainland as of October 16, with 80.1 percent of them being women.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Luo’s claim is impossible to verify. As Yahoo’s Daily Buzz reported in September:
Luo Meizhen, who lives in China’s Guangxi province, reportedly celebrated her 127th birthday just days ago and if it’s verified she’ll be the oldest person who ever lived. However, that may be impossible because while she says she was born in 1885, birth certificates in the region only started to be kept after the 1949 Communist takeover. All she has is a faded copy of her identity card as shown in this video from 2011.
Luo’s county in Guangxi reportedly has more than 70 residents over 100 years old, so it’s not like Luo is that much of an outliner. Then again, we all know that the days begin to blend together as one gets older, so when one gets much older, maybe the years have a tendency to do the same?
Xinhua’s story doesn’t acknowledge Kimura, and The Atlantic’s write-up on Kimura, likewise, doesn’t mention Luo. Maybe for the better: the last thing we need is for these two to be used as symbols of China’s rivalry with Japan. One imagines that after you’ve been around the block a few times and seen history repeat more than once, all except the actual fact of living might seem trivial and petty.
(H/T Josh Gartner)