At Guinness World Records, we celebrate all kinds of achievements and for some, that’s just by living to a grand old age.
It's fascinating to see the ages people can reach, which is why this category is always a permanent feature in our annual book.
As well as the oldest people living, we have followed a number of other records broken by older people throughout the years, including the story of Harry Bidwell, the oldest person to get divorced at the age of 101 in 1980.
Oldest person ever
The oldest person to ever live and the oldest person ever (female) was Jeanne Louise Calment (b. 21 February 1875) from Arles, France who died at the age of 122 years and 164 days old.
When asked on her 120th birthday what she expected from the future, she replied: “I expect a short one.”
Born in 21 February 1875, she lived through world wars, the Spanish Flu and even met Vincent Van Gogh in 1888.
Looking scruffy and smelling of alcohol, Van Gogh purchased pencils from Jeanne’s fathers shop and went on to paint his famous ‘Sunflowers’ in Arles.
Appearing as herself in the film Vincent and Me (Canada, 1990) at the age of 114, she is also the oldest actress.
She lived a fruitful life, taking up fencing in her 80s and continuing to cycle in her 100s, but passed away on 4 August 1997.
She claimed that her secret to long life was olive oil, port and chocolate; she gave up smoking at the age of 120.
Oldest person (living)
Kane Tanaka (Japan, b. 2 January 1903) is the oldest person living currently and the oldest person living (female) at the ripe age of 117 years and 41 days (verified on 12 February 2020).
She celebrated her most recent birthday in her nursing home in Fukuoka, Japan with some tasty cake.
Kane likes to keep her mind active, and on a normal day at the nursing home, she wakes up at 6 a.m. and in the afternoon often studies subjects such as maths.
One of Kane's favourite pastimes is a game of Othello and she's become an expert at the classic board game, often beating the staff.
Before Kane, the oldest living person (female) was fellow Japanese woman Chiyo Miyako (b. 2 May 1901), who was 117 years and 81 days old, as verified on 22 July 2018.
Chiyo passed away on the 22nd of July 2018.
Oldest person ever (male)
Since the turn of the century, 24 people have held the record for the oldest person (living) – only two have been male.
Jiroemon Kimura (Japan, b. 19 April 1897) was the last man to hold the record in 2012.
Kimura worked at the Post Office until the age of 65. His personal motto was "eat light to live long" and believed it was the key to his longevity.
He was 115 when confirmed as the oldest living person and he lived to the age of 116 years and 54 days old before passing away.
He now holds the record for oldest person ever (male).
The other male to hold the record for oldest person (living) was Puerto Rican Emiliano Mercado Del Toro (b. 21 August 1891).
He held the record in 2005 and was once the oldest living veteran after serving in the US Air Force during World War One.
Oldest person living (male)
The current oldest person living (male) is Saturnino de la Fuente García (Spain), at the age of 112 years and 211 days (as verified on 10 September 2021).
The last person to hold the record for the oldest person living (male) was Bob Weighton (UK, b. 29 March 1908), who was 112 years 1 day old as of 30 March 2020.
Bob sadly passed away due to cancer on Thursday 28 May 2020. His family confirmed that he died peacefully in his sleep at his flat in Alton, Hampshire, UK.
The record was previously held by Chitetsu Watanabe (Japan, b. 5 March 1907) who was 112 years 344 days old as of 12 February 2020. He passed away on 23 February 2020.
Chitetsu said in an interview for a local paper in January 2019 that the secret to his longevity was to "not to get angry and keep a smile on your face".
Oldest married couple
Marrying on 7 February 1941, Julio Cesar Mora Tapia (Ecuador, b. 10 March 1910) and 104-year-old Waldramina Maclovia Quinteros Reyes (Ecuador, b. 16 October 1915) are the oldest married couple.
110-year-old Julio and 104-year-old Waldramina have been married for over 79 years, their relationship becoming stronger over time.
They met when Waldramina went to visit her sister who happened to live in the same building as Julio.
The oldest married couple have a combined age of 214 years and 358 days (verified 23 June 2020) - Julio was born before the RMS Titanic sank.
"Family unity under the rules of love, mutual respect, honest work, and proper education based on family values are the keys to healthy coexistence," the couple said.
Jack and Charlotte Henderson from the USA previously held this record in 2019.
"You could say that the category of oldest living person is the one record that we're all striving for, or that we at least all qualify for. Few of us, though, will make to anywhere near the exceptionally old age of 122-year-old Jeanne Calment. Indeed, more humans have walked on the surface of the Moon than have provenly reached their 117th birthday. We all have an innate fascination for supercentenarians - it's incredible to think that there are people alive today who were born before typesetting, engine-powered flight, the Model T Ford and paper towels! - and it's an honour to be able to celebrate these remarkable human beings in our books." - Craig Glenday, Editor-in-chief at Guinness World Records
How do we validate the oldest people?
Guinness World Records works with lead consultant for gerontology, Robert D Young, in the study of aging.
He has lists dating back to 1999 of the oldest people alive at the time on behalf of the Gerontology Research Group.