Kane Tanaka of Japan, the world’s oldest living person, turned 119 years old on Sunday, according to a Twitter post published by her great-granddaughter, Junko Tanaka.
“Great achievement. (Kane Tanaka) reached 119 years of age,” Junko tweeted, with a photograph of her great-grandmother, whom she saw in December. “I hope you’ll continue to live life cheerfully and to the fullest.”
Junko shared a photo on Twitter of two commemorative Coca-Cola bottles that Tanaka was given for her birthday, the labels personalized with her name and age.
“Birthday gift 1: Introducing the presents received for Kane’s birthday. Really appreciate this gift. Coca-Cola company made a commemorative birthday bottle. It seems (Kane) is still drinking Coca-Cola as usual,” Junko tweeted.
Junko spoke to CNN in March 2021, when her great-grandmother was preparing to carry the Olympic torch ahead of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. She started the Twitter account in January 2020 to commemorate Tanaka’s life.
“I might be biased because I’m related to her but I think it’s kind of amazing — I wanted to share that with the world and for people to feel inspired and to feel her joy,” Junko said.
Born in 1903, Tanaka married a rice shop owner at the age of 19 and worked in the family store until she was 103.
Tanaka has lived through a multitude of historical events, surviving two world wars and the 1918 Spanish flu. Her life has spanned 49 Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
“I don’t remember her talking much about the past … She’s very forward thinking — she really enjoys living in the present,” Tanaka’s grandson, Eiji Tanaka, told CNN last year.
Tanaka is living in a nursing home in Fukuoka prefecture. Her family said she keeps her mind and body engaged by doing math and remaining curious.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognized her as the world’s oldest living person in 2019.
In September 2021, Spain’s Saturnino de la Fuente García became the oldest living man at 112 years old. He was born in 1909 and endured the Spanish Civil War, working as a shoemaker.
He said the secret to a long life is “a quiet life… and do not hurt anyone,” according to a press release from Guinness World Records.
Tanaka received congratulatory messages from Twitter users on her birthday.
“It’s awesome that at 119 years old she can look straight at the camera and make a peace sign,” said Twitter user @TuNatoron.
“Congratulations!! Please always stay healthy,” said Mee-san, another Twitter user.
5 tips for improving your quality of life as you age
The secret to a long life
Interviews with people celebrating their 100th birthday always include one question: What’s the secret to your long life?
The answers aren’t always in line with science. For example, in 2020 a Chinese centenarian responded with some dubious advice: “Smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and eat junk food.”
From this we can probably surmise that living a long life is sometimes just a matter of luck and good genes. The rest of us might need to work a little harder to live well into our older years. Are there certain things that can help?
To find out we reached out to Dr. Suzanne Salamon, associate chief for clinical geriatrics at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. We asked her for some advice on how to live longer — and more importantly, how to live well. Here are five of her tips.
Protect your brain
One of the conditions people fear the most as they get older is dementia. While your risk of Alzheimer’s disease is largely out of your control, other types of dementia are preventable, says Dr. Salamon. The health of your brain, like your heart, is largely the product of your lifestyle habits.
“There are a whole lot of things we can do to prevent vascular dementia, which has the same risk factors as heart disease,” she says. Preventive steps include, among others, eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, and keeping cholesterol and blood pressure within the recommended range.
“It’s important to start these practices early in your life, but it’s never too late,” says Dr. Salamon.
An easy way to stay active is by walking. You don’t need to hit 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy — as many as 7,500 can do the trick, says Dr. Salamon.
A 2019 JAMA Internal Medicine study found that walking just 5,000 steps was associated with better health. Even women taking as few as 4,400 steps per day had a 41% lower risk of dying compared with women who walked 2,500 steps a day or fewer. And they didn’t need to be power walking — just moving around the house was enough.
Put technology to use
Many older adults who didn’t grow up with computers and other gadgets might be hesitant to embrace electronic tools. But learning to use them can bring health benefits, says Dr. Salamon. During the pandemic, telemedicine has become a valuable way for people to connect with their doctors and keep tabs on their health. Computers can also help people stay connected with friends and family.
“For many older people, especially people in their 80s and 90s, the computer opens up the world for them,” she says. They can use it to rapidly access information, read about anything and everything, communicate by email and videoconference with their friends and family. Today, many senior centers offer assistance to people who want to learn more about how to use technology, which can give you an easy place to learn the ropes. Don’t be afraid to give it a try.
Keep tabs on medications
As people get older, their pillbox often gets larger. Many people take multiple pills each day, some of them prescribed many years ago. This raises the risk of not only harmful drug interactions but also dangerous side effects. Prescriptions need to be updated regularly, because your body may react differently to drugs if your weight or your metabolism changes.
It’s good practice to review each of your medications with your doctor or pharmacist every six months to ensure that you still need to be taking them, that the dose is accurate and that your medications aren’t interacting with one another, says Dr. Salamon. Making needed adjustments can help you avoid side effects, such as dizziness, which may lead to a fall.
Use mobility tools
Developing good habits and knowing when to accept some help can keep you healthy and independent longer.
A lot of people are reluctant to use a cane or a walker, even if they feel unstable when they walk. This may lead to a fall and a serious injury that affects their quality of life.
“A walker can really help keep you from falling and also gets you moving more. You won’t be so afraid of moving and walking longer distances,” says Dr. Salamon.