While reading articles about Maria Olivia da Silva in Brazil, a lady who has allegedly hit the grand old age of 125, it is worth recalling remarks from a recent profile of the Gerontology Research Group:

GRG's 40 volunteers - a loose, international network of demographers, gerontologists, epidemiologists and self-styled "hobbyists" - are dedicated to verifying the ages of the world's oldest people, and to learning the secrets of their longevity. But to do so, they must contend with dishonest schemers, governments that gleefully support false claims and what researchers call "the invisible barrier of 115."

Because almost no one who reaches age 114 ever sees 115, the group is skeptical of any claims to ages higher than that. GRG investigators dismiss a man now being celebrated in Cuba who says he is 124 but who has no documents. A woman in the Caribbean island nation of Dominica supposedly was 128 when she died in 2003. Her ripe old age was "a falsehood perpetrated by the tourism industry there," says GRG co-founder L. Stephen Coles, a physician and stem-cell researcher at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, where GRG is based. GRG counts just 12 undisputed cases of people ever reaching 115.


The oldest human ever certified was a French woman who died at age 122 in 1997.


The MSNBC article said she had 10 children (14, but four were adopted). I'm wondering what documentation they have for the children, and if that documentation will help put a lower bound on her age (i.e., assuming she had her first child at age 13, what's the youngest she could have been?) Also, how far apart were her children, and can we establish an upper bound based on a reasonable age for onset of menopause?

This might not help settle 125 versus 122 or 119, but it might settle an issue of 125 versus 114 or 109, right?

Posted by: Jay Fox at March 7th, 2005 11:36 AM

Jay Fox has made an interesting suggestion. I read this article about the woman in Brazil and it said she was alert and "loved to talk".

Couldn't some varacity regarding such claims come from answers this woman would give to carefully crafted questions?

Questions about the surroundings during certain events in her life, etc. If she was born in 1880, and she said a certain person was Mayor when she got married or she took her first ride in a car with a certain child, etc.--and those facts didn't match, she would be shown to be a liar.

I wonder if they have any such techniques to use testing a person's age.

The trouble with lying is that it is difficult to be consistent. If you say you are 125 years old and then say you celebrated your 100th birthday at a restaurant that didn't exist 25 years ago, etc., you are caught in a lie.

Beyond just catching people in lies about their age, I wonder if there are standazrd procedures that can be used to trip up anyone lying about anything. Are there any good books on the subject?

Posted by: Randolfe Wicker at March 7th, 2005 5:29 PM
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