World’s oldest person, a 119-year-old Japanese woman, has died

Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman recognized as the world’s oldest person, has died at age 119, months short of her goal of reaching 120.

Born on Jan. 2, 1903, Tanaka loved playing the board game Othello and had a penchant for chocolate and fizzy drinks. She was certified by Guinness World Records as the oldest living person in 2019 when she was 116. During media events, she said she was still enjoying life and hoped to live until 120.

Tanaka died of old age April 19 at a hospital in Fukuoka, her hometown in southern Japan, where she spent all her life, city officials said Tuesday. Tanaka, who had lived at a nursing home, was in and out of the hospital only recently, they said.

Fukuoka Gov. Seitaro Hattori said in a statement that he was shocked and saddened by her loss, as he was looking forward to marking the Respect for the Aged Day with Tanaka in person later this year over chocolate and fizzy drinks. He missed the occasion last year because of the pandemic.

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“I could only see her in a picture showing her with the bouquet and making a ‘peace’ sign (with her fingers), but that cheered me up,” Hattori said. “She gave the people hope for healthy long life.”

With her death, the world’s oldest person is now Lucile Randon, a French nun known as Sister Andre, aged 118, according to the Gerontology Research Group. In Japan, the new record-holder is 115-year-old Fusa Tatsumi of Osaka, the Japanese health ministry said.

Japan, whose population is rapidly aging and declining, had 86,510 centenarians, 90% of them women, in the health ministry’s latest count.

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