Tales of aged people fascinate me on many levels. One is testing mysterious knowledge from the Bible. Old testament writing seems to indicate that when God started to reduce human life span after such long lives as Noah or Methusaleh, it appears that he limits us to 120 years. When I first read that many years ago, I spent a bit of time searching for credible claims over that age and could not find them. Only a few claims existed from places with no record keeping and, even in modern times, nobody using a calendar.
Many years ago, friends were telling me that soon – thanks to nanotechnology – we would be living 130 years or more. I gave them my scientific and medical reasons why I didn’t think that would happen and have been taking a wait and see attitude; silently expecting no significant shift in the current max.
Believing it is possible to extend human life is easy for most people to accept, because we hear stories about our increasing life expectancy. Numbers often play games with us. While average life expectancy has increased a lot over time, the shape of the distribution curve has changed and the max has never changed.
Over the past several months many stories have been appearing in Japan about aged people who have actually passed away and their families are collecting benefits. Perhaps the most dramatic was the mummified remains of a man who had passed 30 years ago and whose family kept his remains on his bed. Because of the ailing economy – often blamed on the aging population – many officials have been dispatched to locate and verify geriatrics: particularly those collection benefits.
Today’s news lauds Mr. Jiroemon Kimura, 113 years old, as the oldest man in Japan. He looks lively enough in his photos and eats with his family everyday, reading the news and watching sumo. I guess we can trust this report; however, the same report and another below it contain suspicious information as well.
- Claim number one: Japan has 44,449 citizens over 100 years old. Even the Japanese people in my office were skeptical and assume this is not verified.
- Claim number two: Japan has 72 citizens over 120 years old. This report lists that these are cases of unknown status.
- Claim number three: There is a 200 year old citizen in Iki city, Nagasaki prefecture. This report lists his status as unknown. Iki city is on an island of 134 square kilometers… how hard would it be to just stop by his house and check up on him?
Being a skeptic, my first approach is to not believe the outrageous claims until they are proved; particularly, when every one of them investigated so far has proved false. Knowing that there are a lot of elderly in Japan, the true number of centenarians might be high; however, I’m guessing we’ll find the correct number of citizens over 120 is zero and the number of 200 year old men is the same.
On less skeptical news. A week and a half ago, I sat with my wife’s 91 year old teacher and chatted about all manner of things. Soon, I should really make another visit to her grandmother who has been kicking around Mie for 97 years.