Updated: Sep 1, 2022
She, herself, had the ultimate genes!
It is quite the achievement to hit 90 years of age, or even 100, but what about 119, as the world’s oldest person just did! January 2 marked Kane Tanaka’s 119th birthday, born in 1903. It is also interesting to note that she was the second oldest person ever recorded, with the first having exceeded 122 years of age. Her goal was to reach the 120 mark, but she came up roughly eight months short. Now for the rest of the story!
Kane married nearly a century ago in 1922, and if ever there was a scandal, she married her cousin, Hideo Tanaka. Together they had four children (two daughters and two sons). They also adopted the daughter of her husband's sister. In an odd twist, the oldest daughter died during childbirth, the youngest daughter died at age 1, and the adoptive daughter died of illness at age 23. Even though Kane had a tremendously long lifespan, the remaining immediate female members had the direct opposite.
Kane’s husband died in 1993 at the age of 90. Imagine being married for 71 years and then living without your partner for an additional 36 years. Most people see it as an achievement to hit 50 years of marriage, with 60 years even rarer. This couple made it 71 years, and it would have lasted longer had Hideo not checked out early!
I find this Japanese woman’s longevity fascinating, having survived many of life’s hardships. I would think the most difficult would be outliving most of her relatives, beginning with her husband, her daughters, her sons, and most likely some of her grandchildren. In addition, she was able to survive the Spanish flu, paratyphoid fever, two bouts with cancer (pancreatic and colorectal), and the more recent Covid pandemic. had it not been for the current pandemic, Kane would have been one of the torchbearers in the recent Tokyo Olympics. Isn’t that a kick in the teeth!
As I stated earlier, her goal was to reach 120, and the New York Post wrote:
Tanaka never divulged the secret to her longevity, although she was known for waking up at 6 a.m. and spending her afternoons practicing mathematics and calligraphy to keep her mind sharp. In fact, she became such an expert at the classic board game Othello that she’d frequently beat the retirement home staffers.
I think it is fair to say there is no secret to a long life; if there were, Kane would have stuck around for one more year. She would have also shared it with some of her family! In either case, she is in a better place now.