There has been a new record set! The world’s oldest person (as in ever documented, not just the oldest living) is Carmelo Flores Laura and he is apparently 123 years old! Flores lives in Bolivia and he seems to be in tolerably good health for his age:

“The native Aymara lives in a straw-roofed dirt-floor hut in an isolated hamlet near Lake Titicaca at 13,100 feet, is illiterate, speaks no Spanish and has no teeth.

He walks without a cane and does not wear glasses. ‘I see a bit dimly. I had good vision before. But I saw you coming,’ he told an Associated Press journalists who visited after a local TV report touted him as the world’s oldest person.”

Maybe part of his secret to a long life is his chewing of the coca leaf – a mild stimulant that Flores, like most Bolivian highlands peasants, has been chewing his entire life. But aside from that, Flores also credits good diet and exercise (how depressingly common – I was hoping for a miracle drug or cure for long life that would require little or no effort on my part):

“’I walk a lot, that’s all. I go out with the animals,’ says Flores, who long herded cattle and sheep. ‘I don’t eat noodles or rice, only barley. I used to grow potatoes, beans, oca (an Andean tuber).’

The water Flores drinks originates on the snow-capped peak of Illampu, one of Bolivia’s highest.

He says he does not drink alcohol, but imbibed some in his youth. He has eaten a lot of mutton, and though he likes pork it is hardly available. He fondly remembers hunting and eating fox as a younger man.”

Of course, when you get to 123 you start to lose track of the years (I’m finding that I also forget how old I am and I haven’t hit thirty yet!) and Flores is not exactly sure of his true age:

“’I should be about 100 years old or more,’ Flores says. But his memory is dim. Flores’ 27-year-old grandson Edwin said Flores fought in the 1933 Chaco war with Paraguay but he only faintly remembers.

The director of Bolivia’s civil registrar, Eugenio Condori, showed The Associated Press the registry that lists Flores’ birth date as July 16, 1890.

Condori said birth certificates did not exist in Bolivia until 1940. Births previously were registered with baptism certificates provided by Roman Catholic priests.

‘For the state, the baptism certificate is valid,’ Condori said. He said he could not show Flores’ baptism certificate to the AP because it is a private document.”

At the age of 123 it is also understandable that you would mourn lost loved ones – family and friends who have died before you. Flores mourns for his wife, but I think that he is luckier than many in that his wife died only “over a decade ago” and that he has one remaining child (age 67) and has 40 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Unfortunately most of his family members live away from his village of Frasquia: “a dozen homes a two-hour walk from the nearest road”.  As the Associated Press reports, Flores has in some ways missed out on the modern world:

“Although electrical power arrived three years ago, time seems to have stood still in Frasquia. Peasants still prepare chuno, or dehydrated and chilled potatoes, and till the soil with ox-driven ploughs. Donkeys bray and sheep and cattle graze.”  

But in one way, the 21st century has imposed itself on Flores life and his village. Frasquia is mostly inhabited by the elderly and the middle-aged, “the young people are mostly gone”.  That’s a phrase that could apply to many towns in Japan, China and Western Europe. A sad fate for the elderly, whether they are 123 or an age a little less record-breaking.

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...