Has it really been more than 15 years since we were marking the arrival of a new century?
How about nearly 115 years? Yes, there are still five people alive — all of them women — who saw the dawn of the 20th century. And three of them are Americans. (Several others also claim to hail from the 19th century — one Mexican woman even says she is 127 –— but lack the records to back it up.)
What are the stories of these extraordinary women who have made it all the way from the 19th century to a decade-and-a-half into the 21st? What are their tips for longevity?
Here are mini-biographies of the five people on Earth who have witnessed three centuries.
Name: MISAO OKAWA
Country of residence: Japan
Birthday: March 5, 1898
The oldest person in the world hails from Japan, noted for its abundance of people who live beyond 100. And Misao Okawa is the oldest Japanese person ever. (At 122, Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997, was by far the oldest person to have ever lived, at least among those with verified credentials.)
Okawa, who lives in an old people's community in Osaka, was born when Queen Victoria was still on the throne and the Spanish-American War was raging. She has been a widow for 84 years, her husband having died in 1931.
Her secrets to longevity? Good genes, regular sleep, exercise — she was doing leg squats at 102 — and some sushi. "Eat and sleep and you will live a long time," she told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper.
"Mrs Okawa eats three large meals a day and makes sure that she sleeps eight hours a night," Tomohito Okada, the director of the Kurenai Retirement Home, where she has lived for the last 18 years, told the Telegraph. "She insists that her favorite meal is sushi, particularly mackerel on vinegar-steamed rice, and she has it at least once every month."
Okawa was married in 1919 and had three children, two of whom are still living and are in their 90s. She also has four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Name: GERTRUDE WEAVER
Country of residence: United States
Birthday: July 4, 1898
The second-oldest person in the world also is America's oldest person.
The daughter of sharecroppers who witnessed the Civil War, Gertrude Weaver was born in southwest Arkansas near the border with Texas and was married in 1915, according to the Associated Press. She and her husband had four children, all of whom have died except for a son, now in his 90s.
Weaver lives at Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation, a nursing home in Camden, Ark.
According to an article in Time magazine, some of the highlights of Weaver's week are manicures, Bible study and "wheelchair dancing," which she does three times a week. "We chair dance because we can't get up anymore," Weaver told Time. She is also visited regularly by friends and her granddaughter Gradie Welch, who is nearly 80. "She is a loving and compassionate grandmother," Welch told the magazine.
So how has she lived so long? "Kindness," she told Time. "Treat people right and be nice to other people the way you want them to be nice to you."
Also, she says, it helps to have strong religious beliefs. "You have to follow God. Don't follow anyone else," she told the local Camden News. "Be obedient and follow the laws and don't worry about anything. I've followed Him for many, many years and I ain't tired."
Name: JERALEAN TALLEY
Country of residence: United States
Birthday: May 23, 1899
Until 2014, when it was confirmed that Gertrude Weaver had been born in 1898, Jeralean Talley of Inkster, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, was listed as America's oldest person (and the second-oldest in the world).
Born Jeralean Kurtz, one of 11 children in in Montrose, Ga., she spent her early years living on a farm picking cotton and peanuts, according to Time magazine. Seeking better economic opportunity, she moved to Inkster in 1935 where she married Alfred Talley and had one child, Thelma, who was born in 1937. Talley and her husband were wed for 52 years before he died in 1988 at the age of 95. She has three grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.
According to her daughter, with whom she lives, Talley's secret to long life is staying active. Until recently she played the slot machines at casinos, bowled until she was 104, and even mowed her own lawn at 105. She still goes on annual fishing trips with a friend and his son, and in May 2013, at age 114, caught seven catfish.
"She literally throws her line in, and I'll run over and try to pull in the fish," the friend, Michael Kinlock, told Time. "We do that routine until she gets tired of it, and then we'll head home."
"She's fun. She's great to be around. And she likes to eat," Talley's great-great- granddaughter Aerial Holloway, 23, told the Detroit Free Press, adding that Grandma Talley, as many in the family call her, taught her to live by the Golden Rule, which was Talley's lifelong philosophy.
Name: SUSANNAH MUSHATT JONES
Country of residence: United States
Birthday: July 6, 1899
Born in Alabama, the third-oldest of 11 children of sharecroppers, "Miss Susie" Mushatt Jones moved to New York York City in 1923. That's where she still is today, a resident of the Vandalia Senior Center in Brooklyn.
After graduating from a private boarding school in Alabama — at her graduation, according to The New York Times, she gave a presentation on "Negro Music in France" — she was accepted at the famed Tuskegee Institute. Her parents, though, did not have enough money to pay for college, so she decided to move to New York, where the Harlem Renaissance was in its early stages.
She married, but divorced within five years and had no children, She worked mostly caring for the children of wealthy families before retiring in 1965.
"She's kind, has a tremendous work ethic and enjoys life," Jones' eightysomething niece, Lavilla Watson, told the New York Daily News.
Watson said her aunt, who has been blind for more than 12 years, helped put her, two sisters and two cousins through college. "She wants everyone to go to college," Watson said.
She was generous with her family, but when it came to splurging on herself, Jones's weakness, according to an article in Time magazine, was high-end lace lingerie. "She would save her money and then go to Bloomingdale's," her niece Selbra Mushatt told Time. "One time, when she had to get an EKG, the doctors and nurses were surprised to see her wearing that lingerie, and she said, 'Oh sure, you can never get too old to wear fancy stuff.'"
She never smoked or drank alcohol, but her diet was far from healthy.
"Miss Susie loves her barbeque chicken, Miss Susie loves her bacon and if you take any of (them) away you will be told off," another niece, Taheera Mushatt, told WABC-TV.
Name: EMMA MORANO
Country of residence: Italy
Birthday: November 29, 1899
Born just over a month before the end of the 19th century, Emma Morano is Europe's oldest living person. Incredibly, she still lives on her own in northern Italy and takes care of herself and her house independently, according to local media.
Morano was the first of eight children, all of whom have predeceased her, though a sister lived to be 102. In 1926, she married and in 1937 her only child was born but died at 6 months old. In 1938, she separated from her husband, Giovanni Martinuzzi, but never divorced. Until 1954, she was a worker at a jute factory in her town before working in the kitchen of a boarding school until she retired at 75.
When asked about the secret of her longevity by La Stampa newspaper, she first mentioned her daily glass of homemade brandy.
But Morano mostly cites her eating habits — including raw eggs every day — as having helped her live so long. "For breakfast I eat biscuits with milk or water," she said. "Then during the day I eat two eggs — one raw and one cooked — just like the doctor recommended when I was 20 years old. For lunch I'll eat pasta and minced meat then for dinner, I'll have just a glass of milk."
Sleep is another important factor in her longevity, she told the newspaper. Morano goes to bed before 7 every night and wakes up before 6.