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Published: Thursday June 12, 2014 MYT 7:55:00 PM
Updated: Thursday June 12, 2014 MYT 4:58:58 PM

'World's oldest man' dies at 111, disputed 'oldest person' dies at 123

RIP: The 'world's oldest living man' Alexander Simich (left) was 111 years old when he passed away on June 8 in New York. On June 9, Carmelo Flores (right) passed away in a village in Bolivia's highlands. He claimed he was born in 1890, but since the Bolivian government only began issuing birth certificates in 1940, his age could not be verified. But if his claim were true, he would've been the oldest person who ever lived: 123 years.

RIP: The 'world's oldest living man' Alexander Simich (left) was 111 years old when he passed away on June 8 in New York. On June 9, Carmelo Flores (right) passed away in a village in Bolivia's highlands. He claimed he was born in 1890, but since the Bolivian government only began issuing birth certificates in 1940, his age could not be verified. But if his claim were true, he would've been the oldest person who ever lived: 123 years.

Two men – the world’s ‘officially’ oldest living man and ‘unofficially’ oldest person ever – died a day apart, aged 111 in New York, and 123 in the Andes.

Officially the world’s oldest living man for the last two months before he died on June 8, Alexander Imich had credited good genes for his long life. He even managed to squeeze in wise words on the ‘quality versus quantity’ debate. “The life you live is equally or more important for longevity,” Imich said, in one of his last interviews last month. 

Born in Poland in 1903 and survivor of a Soviet Gulag labour camp, Imich had emigrated to the US with his wife in the 1950s. He was a scholar of the occult, having edited an anthology called Incredible Tales of the Paranormal in 1995 at the age of 92. He turned in 111 in February.

Verified: Born in Poland in 1903, Alexander Imich was the world's oldest living man before he passed away on June 8. Imich was a scholar on the occult during his lifetime and had edited an anthology on paranormal stories in 1995 when he was 92. — Reuters

In April, Imich assumed the title of ‘oldest living man’, according to the Gerontology Research Group of Torrance, California. That title now goes to Sakari Momoi of Japan — born on Feb 5, 1903, just one day after Imich. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the oldest man who ever lived was Jiroemon Kimura, from Japan, who died last year on June 12 aged 116 years and 54 days.

Women, however, trump the menfolk when it comes to longevity. Nine women have lived longer than Kimura, and there are 66 living women older than Imich, according to the list of supercentenarians – individuals who have lived longer than 110 years – maintained by the Gerontology Research Group.

Among the women is the ‘oldest living person’ in the world: Misao Okawa, also from Japan, who celebrated her 116th birthday in March. Meanwhile, the official title of the oldest person in the world who ever lived belongs to Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at 122, according to the Guinness Book of Records. 

Oldest person ever?

Barely a day after Imich’s passing, an indigenous man in Bolivia whose reported age would have made him the oldest person ever known, died on the night of June 9 in his village near Lake Titicaca, his only living son said.

Carmelo Flores, an Aymara Indian, carried national identity documents based on a baptism certificate showing his birthday as July 16, 1890 — making 123 years old at the time of his death. However, Bolivia only began issuing official birth certificates in 1940 and authorities were never able to confirm or disprove Flores’ age. Because of this technicality, Flores' supercentenarian status was never officially recognised.

Disputed: Carmelo Flores, who claimed he was born in July 1890 — which would've made him 123 years old, the oldest person who ever lived, when he passed away on June 9 — lost out on being listed for any longevity records because Bolivia only started issuing birth certificates in 1940, when he would've been 50 years old. — Reuters

“He died yesterday at 9pm,” his son Cecilio Flores, who is nearly 70, said the day after. “He wasn’t able to stand up, his foot was swollen. Doctors told me that’s how it is with diabetes.”

Flores attributed his longevity to eating quinoa seeds and riverside mushrooms, and to constantly chewing coca leaves. He lived in a straw-roofed hut in Frasquia, a 4,000m-high hamlet in the Andes, east of La Paz. Flores said he fought in the 1932-35 Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay, hunting skunks to nourish himself. He also briefly lived in La Paz, but never took to the bustling capital.

Living a life of simple means, he spent his last years taking walks in shoes made of recycled tires and laying on a blanket watching village life go by. – Reuters

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, People, People, Elderly, Death, obituary, obit, Alexander Imich, world's oldest man, New York, Carmelo Flores, world's oldest person, Bolivia

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