Someone who was born on the last day of 1899 would now be 113 years old. There are just a handful of people of this age left on Earth. They are the last remaining survivors of the 19th century; what in Britain was the Victorian Age and internationally historian Eric Hobsbawm dubbed the “age of Empire”.
Only 16 of these links to history now remain alive*, according to the latest data by specialist research team the Gerontology Research Group.
The vast majority of these super-centenarians live in Japan and the US. Four of the world’s five oldest people live in Japan. Japan is also the stand-out leader in population density terms, with 12.8m citizens per 19th century survivor, compared to the US’s 28.4m.
As each year goes by, we are getting closer to losing the last of these links to the past. The world’s current oldest person, Jiroemon Kimura of Japan, was born on April 19, 1897. When he was born Victoria was on the throne in Britain, William McKinley had just become president of the US, and Emperor Meiji was steering Japan to becoming a world power. Only a rare handful of human beings get the privilege of experiencing three different centuries: let us celebrate the last few of our time, before we lose them.
* Even if, as purists would insist, the 19th century includes the year 1900, the total number of remaining survivors is only 29.
The GRG includes in its list people whose birth date and survival is confirmed. The GRG lists a further 11 people born in the 19th century whose continued survival it cannot currently confirm.
edit: 7/1/2013: The oldest woman in the US has died, Reuters reports. Mamie Rearden, the third-oldest person in the world, passed away earlier this week.