US/World

China’s Luo Meizhen, World’s Oldest Woman, Dies At 127; Guinness Has Yet To Verify Record

oldest woman in the world
Luo Meizhen has died at the reported age of 127, making her the oldest person in recorded history. Sharon Kwok

Unlike many world records, attaining the status of world's oldest person is mostly a passive effort. One needs only to complete the default task of living — just for slightly longer than the rest of the planet — to gain the top spot.

Luo Meizhen may have attained not only that, but also achieved the title of oldest person in history. If the documents claiming Luo was born in 1885 are correct, then the Chinese-born farmer and supercentenarian would overtake Jeanne Calment — who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years 164 days — as the oldest person ever to have lived.

While Luo's residency permit — called a hukou — and her personal identity card both listed her birthday, the two were issued in recent decades and international organizations, including Guinness, have yet to recognize Luo's age as a legitimate record. Ironically, Luo may have just been too old, as China had not built a reliable birth certificate system until decades after her birth.

Skeptics also point to Luo's five surprisingly young-looking children, the youngest of whom Luo claimed to have birthed at age 61. The feat gains some credibility, however, given Luo's home county had 81 centenarians in 2011. At a rate of 31.7 people per 100,000, Bama Yao Autonomous County has more than four times the global average.

Her grandson, Huang Heyuan, said his grandmother's death was "not unexpected."

"She was a kind person but at times had a very bad temper," he said. "She had a strong character."

Luo's family lit sticks of red incense in her brick house on Wednesday before storing her on a mountain close to their home.

Luo's death comes only days before the death of Japan's 116-year-old Jiroemon Kimura, early Wednesday morning. Kimura had officially been recognized by Guinness as the world's oldest person and history's oldest man.

Having lived through three centuries, just as Luo had claimed, Kimura worked until 1962 as a postal worker and then as an agricultural worker until the age of 90. In total, he had seven children, 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and 14 great-great-grandchildren.

To give Kimura's longevity some perspective, he shared his birth year with Amelia Earhart. He didn't smoke and ate only until he was 80 percent full, a local official told Agence France-Presse.

His motto in life was to "eat light and live long," the official said.

And like Luo's noteworthy home county, Kimura's hometown of Kyotango has decided to join 36 other municipalities in a quest to research the diets of 94 local centenarians and discover the secrets to their longevity.

The title of world's oldest person now passes to Misao Okawa, who turned 115 years old in early March. Twenty of the world's 50 people over the age of 110 currently reside in Japan, where the life expectancy at birth is 83 years old.

Loading...