Kane Tanaka, world’s oldest person, dies at 119

Tanaka, who enjoyed board games and maths puzzles, died in hospital in southwestern Japan.

Kane Tanaka, wearing a traditional kimono in yellow, and surrounded by flowers pictured celebrating her 117th birthday
Kane Tanaka, who was born in 1903, died in Fukuoka city earlier this month [File: Kyodo/via Reuters]

Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman believed to have been the world’s oldest person, has died aged 119.

Tanaka died of old age at a hospital in southwestern Fukuoka city on April 19, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported on Monday.

She was born in the Fukuoka region on January 2, 1903 — the same year the Wright brothers flew for the first time and Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

She was confirmed as the world’s oldest living person by Guinness World Records in 2019.

Tanaka was in relatively good health until recently and lived at a nursing home, where she enjoyed board games, solving maths problems, fizzy drinks and chocolate. She had been planning to join last year’s torch relay for the Olympic Games but pulled out because of coronavirus concerns.

Local Governor Seitaro Hattori hailed Tanaka’s life and said he was “extremely saddened” at her death.

“I was looking forward to seeing Kane-san on this year’s Respect for the Aged Day (a national holiday in September) and celebrating together with her favorite soda and chocolate,” he said in a statement on Monday.

In her younger years, Tanaka ran various businesses including a noodle shop and a rice cake store. She married Hideo Tanaka a century ago in 1922, giving birth to four children and adopting a fifth.

Japan has an ageing population with about 28 percent of people aged 65 or more.

As of last September, the country had 86,510 centenarians, and nine out of every 10 were women.

With Tanaka’s death, Lucile Randon, a French nun better known as Sister Andre, becomes the world’s oldest known person.

Randon was born in southern France on February 11, 1904, and recently celebrated her 118th birthday with her favourite  port-and-chocolate cocktail.

She lives at a nursing home in Toulon along the Mediterranean coast of France.

Source: News Agencies