Kane Tanaka: who was the oldest person alive, who is now the oldest living person in the world, cause of death

A diet of healthy foods and occassional games of Othello are just two factors that led to her long life

A Japanese woman recognised as the world’s oldest person has died aged 119, just months short of her goal of reaching 120.

Born on 2 January 1903, Kane Tanaka loved playing the board game Othello and had a penchant for chocolate and fizzy drinks.

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She died on 19 April at a hospital in Fukuoka, her hometown in southern Japan where she spent all her life, city officials said on Tuesday 26 April.

But who was she, and what was the secret to her longevity?

Here is everything you need to know.

Who was Kane Tanaka?

Kane Tanaka was born on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu on 2 January 190, the third daughter and seventh child of Kumayoshi and Kuma Ota.

Kane and her family claimed that she was actually born on 26 December 1902, and that her parents put off registering her birth for a week because they were unsure if she would survive, having been born prematurely.

In 1922, Kane married her cousin, with whom she had two boys and two daughters; her husband

She was certified by Guinness World Records as the oldest living person in 2019 when she was 116, and had told the media she was still enjoying life and hoped to live until 120.

Tanaka had been scheduled to carry the Olympic torch at the 2020 Summer Olympics, but backed out because of concerns about a surge in Covid-19 cases in Japan.

(Photo: JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)

She took short walks in the nursing home hallways and occasionally played the board game Othello, and attributed her long life to her faith in God, her family, sleep, hope, eating healthy foods, and practising mathematics.

How did she die?

Tanaka died of old age on 19 April at a hospital in Fukuoka.

She had been in a nursing home since September 2018, and on her 118th birthday, was said to be in good health, though she experienced a number of serious diseases throughout her life.

At the age of 45, she underwent pancreatic cancer surgery; she was later diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006 and underwent surgery at the age of 103.

Tanaka, who had lived at a nursing home, was in and out of hospital only recently, officials said.

Fukuoka governor Seitaro Hattori said in a statement he was shocked and saddened by her loss as he was looking forward to marking the Respect for the Aged Day later this year in person over chocolate and fizzy drinks, as he had to miss the occasion last year due to the pandemic.

“I could only see her in a picture showing her with the bouquet and making a ‘peace’ sign (with her fingers), but that cheered me up,” Hattori said.

“She gave the people hope for a healthy long life.”

Who is the world’s new oldest person?

With her death, the world’s oldest human is now Lucile Randon, a French nun known as Sister Andre, aged 118, according to the The Gerontology Research Group.

In Japan, the new record-holder is a 115-year-old woman, Fusa Tatsumi, of Osaka, the Japanese health ministry said.

Japan, whose population is rapidly ageing and declining, had 86,510 centenarians, 90% of them women, according to the latest ministry figures.