World’s oldest person dies

Tokyo – The world’s oldest person, a Japanese woman who counted eating well and getting plenty of sleep as the secret of her longevity, died Monday at age 114, a news report said.

Yone Minagawa, who lived in a nursing home but was still sprightly late in life, died “of old age” Monday evening, Kyodo News reported.

There was no immediate answer to a telephone call placed late on Monday to city hall in her mountainous hometown of Fukuchi in southern Fukuoka prefecture.

Born on January 4, 1893, Minagawa blew out the candles on her own birthday cake earlier this year.

She was already in her 50s when Japan surrendered in World War II, starting a new era for her country.

Widowed at an early age, she reportedly raised her five children by selling flowers and vegetables in a coal mining town.

Despite her advanced age, Minagawa was said to enjoy eating sweets and counted eating well and getting a good night’s sleep as the secrets of her longevity.

Her reign as the world’s oldest person lasted just over six months. The Guinness Book of World Records certified her as the world’s oldest person after Emma Faust Tillman, the daughter of freed American slaves, died in January.

The next person to become the world’s oldest person is set to be another American woman, according to the International Committee on Supercentenarians, a US-based group which documents longevity records.

Edna Parker, who lives in the midwestern state of Indiana, is also 114, having been born on April 20, 1893, according to the group.

Minagawa’s nursing home said she had celebrated becoming the world’s oldest person earlier this year with a Western-style lunch of bread, stew, salad and a dessert – a sign of Japan’s changing dietary habits.

Izumi Mori, who took care of Minagawa at her nursing home, said that the 114-year-old spoke coherently and ate three meals a day even late in her life.

Her favourite sweet was manju, a Japanese confection made of red bean paste.

“Mrs Minagawa loves sweets, especially manju. When I asked what the secret of her long life is, she said that it’s eating well and sleeping well. In fact, she said her hobby is sleeping,” Mori told AFP earlier this year.

Minagawa also loved music. She used to play the shamisen, a three-stringed Japanese instrument similar to a guitar, and even while in a wheelchair she would move her body when her friends played music.

Japanese women are the world’s oldest living people, in what experts attribute to a traditionally healthy diet and high standard of medical care.

Their life expectancy was a record 85.81 years in 2006, according to the government.

Japanese men are the world’s second oldest with a life expectancy of 78.8 second only to men in Iceland who on average live to be 79.4