According to The Centenarian (www.thecentenarian.co.uk) the fastest growing part of the world population is people 100 and older. They now number around 450,000. Currently the US with 72,000 holds the largest number, but Japan at 30,000 is number two and a serious challenger because it has the highest centenarian growth rate in the world—the population of Japanese people over 100 has quadrupled in the past ten years. China, with a much larger population than the United States and Japan combined, has only 7,000 centenarians.
Based on her 1888 birth certificate, perhaps the oldest person in the world is Mariam Amash, a Palestinian woman living in northern Israel and now 122 years old. That’s a lot of candles to blow out on that festooned honey cake. Mariam—although it makes those of us who favor zero-population growth tear out our remaining hair—has given birth to 10 children, and she now has 120 grandchildren, 250 great-grandchildren, and more than 30 great-great-grandchildren. Mariam’s secret to long life? Lots of vegetables and lots of olive oil: “I drink it by the glass.”
Mexico has a sizable number of centenarians. One of them, Juan Carlos Caballero, passed away at age 109 only last April in a home for old people in Monterrey, Mexico. The young Juan was a driver for Pancho Villa during the Revolution. Until shortly before his death Juan walked several kilometers a day. In recent years, Juan has assured them that should social injustice rear its ugly head and should there be another uprising he would “once again take up arms….”
Like Juan, most centenarians live physically active lives. Many are still working well into their 80s and 90s. Most are lean; most have never smoked heavily or abused alcohol; most have at least one other long-lived close relative; most deal well with stress; most live in non-toxic environments; most have a spiritual focus in their lives; and, I have been convinced by a lovely young lady, most of them read several poems each day.
Here at Lakeside more and more people are living into their 90s, some to 100. There is no doubt many of us will become centenarians. But back in the States, those middle-aged and younger are increasingly more likely to live shorter lives. Robin McKie, Science Editor for The Observer, says that “Twenty years ago, the US, the richest nation on the planet, led the world’s longevity league. Today, American women rank only 19th, while males can manage only 28th place, alongside men from Brunei.”
Regardless, I live at Lakeside and intend to live at least to 100. How do I know? Last summer I visited Doña Sofia de Garza, a famous curandera who lives near Colima, to ask her how to do this. I was fascinated by Doña Sofia’s gold bangles, both on her ears and on her wrists, and by her full (and fabled) bosom ready to burst out of her gauzy Mexican blouse, and by her skirt, a deep and sultry red, and by her eyes, so deliciously dark with tiny flecks of gold, and yes, by her mouth--which at age seventy was still remarkably desirable. Incredibly, she looked like only a slightly older version of the gypsy girl played by Salma Hayek in The Hunchback.
In less than thirty minutes of consultation, Doña Sofia divined the solution and assured me that indeed I could live to be more than one-hundred. The secret, she whispered to me, through that delectable mouth that would remain with me in imagination for many months, was to love women of all ages, to kiss them on their lips as often as possible and as passionately as each situation permitted…and to pay her only $400 pesos for everything she had just revealed to me.