How old is the oldest living person?


Jeanne Calment, who died at 122, is the oldest person whose age has been verified. Turns out that's hard to do, but UCLA's Gerontology Research Group is on it.

Rachel Nuwer has a story at Smithsonian, profiling this organization, which is studying the biology of extremely long life. In order to do so, though, they first have to verify that the people they are studying are actually as old as claimed. And that can be really, really difficult.

Ninety-eight percent of ages claimed over 115 are false," says Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine and geriatrics at Boston Medical Center, and director of the New England Centenarian Study.

… In other cases, individuals who don't make the cut likely are genuine supercentenarians, but they are unable to provide the documentation to prove it. While Japan has kept scrupulous birth records for more than a century (perhaps partly explaining why that country has so many supercentenarians per capita), other countries have historically been less meticulous about that task. Due to a general lack of written birth records in African nations, for example, Table E includes no one from that massive continent. Similarly, China certainly has many supercentenarians, but none are confirmed because the Chinese government did not track births prior to the early 1900s. India, likewise, did not keep such records until around 1903, when the British began tracking some births there—especially of eldest sons in landowner families. As a result, Coles expects that more and more Indians will join the list as years pass.