The secret to immortality has eluded us since the beginning of time. While before it was how to live past the age of 20, and not die of a cold—or something minor like the black plague, for instance—we now find ourselves searching for the secret fountain of youth to solve all our ailments. Does the answer lie in the harmful trend of baby Botox, a dabble in cellular beauty or even reverse ageing your brain with poop?
Most of us aren’t gazillionaires like Jeff Bezos and we certainly don’t have Alto Labs to turn back time for us, but that doesn’t stop us from being fascinated by those who seem to have cheated death themselves. So it’s no coincidence the rumoured ‘163 year-old’ mummy monk went viral on TikTok recently. Though the man’s age has since been thoroughly debunked, it’s true that there are mysterious places in the world where most people live past 100. Let’s have a look at some of these locations and what makes them so special.
The most viral person on TikTok currently isn’t doing dance choreographies or whacky challenges, it’s a very, very old man usually seen resting in a bed. Yes, that’s right, TikTok has been taken over by videos of a senior citizen who was claimed to be 163 years old.
The Snapchat show YouTuber News by Pop Buzz covered how this particular story snowballed from simple videos of an old man sipping water from a syringe into the myth of Luang Pho Yai (the reported name of the individual in these videos) being 163 years old. Despite it being completely unbelievable that a man could live to 163, the videos of Yai reached 32 million views on TikTok, with an equally astounding 5.2 million likes. People were seriously duped.
Clips of the frail monk from Thailand surfaced across the internet and soon after, @auyary13, the TikTok account that posted many videos of Yai, garnered over 600,000 followers and over 13 million likes. Allegedly run by the monk’s granddaughter, the videos often showed him being taken care of or shared updates on his health conditions.
People from all over the world flocked to the comments section to share their shock and amazement at the mysterious ‘male mummy’, many poking fun at the man’s supposed age. “I don’t think he knows he’s still alive,” one user commented. “Bro threw the apple at Newton as a joke,” said another one. Comedic goldmine, if you ask me.
However, after the punchlines rolled in, it was revealed that Yai is not in fact as old as first thought—not even close, actually. Though he doesn’t have quite that many birthday notches on his belt, the man is in fact 109, according to his granddaughter. Sure, that’s still pretty old, but not ‘mummified man’ old, right?
The mummy allusions can be linked to the Buddhist process that leads to one becoming what is called a Sokushinbutsu, a popular practice from Japan where people are said to enter the process of mummification in pursuit of total abstinence from sensual pleasures before they actually die—trippy, huh? In simpler terms, they induce their own death by starvation before getting mummified.
Despite Yai being surprisingly old, he is by far not the oldest person in the world right now. The top spot of that list goes to Kane Tanaka, a Japanese woman who has recently just celebrated her 119th birthday in a nursing home. You can even keep up with Tanaka on Twitter via her official account where regular updates on her life are posted.
Who run the world? Girls, clearly, since the oldest person to have ever lived is said to be a woman by the name of Jeanne Louise Calment from France. With a Guinness World Record to her name and living through twenty French presidents, she was born in 1875 and died at 122 years in 1997.
There are many supercentenarian secrets as to why these people live to the ages they do, blue zone areas (regions where people live much longer than average) are one of them. According to the Blue Zones website, here are the five destinations people live the longest:
Okinawa Island is located in Japan by the East China Sea, and is known for its unusual percentage of citizens who have crossed the 100 age mark. Dubbed the “island of eternal youth” by the BBC, “residents suffer from low levels of heart disease, cancer and dementia, and Okinawans’ robust social life.” One reason for this is their strong sense of ikigai (a unique purpose in life) which often keeps them alive and helps them bloom into a triple-digit age in the healthiest way possible.
This small Italian island has a whole host of people living past 100. The kidney shaped region was the first ever to gain blue zone status with nearly ten times more centenarians in Sardinia per capita than the US. According to Blue Zones, M26 marker (a rare gene Sardinia inhabitants have) is linked to “exceptional longevity” and by being so culturally isolated, residents “have kept to a very traditional, healthy lifestyle.” Sounds perfect.
This central American destination may not be far from the US geographically but is light years ahead in terms of life expectancy. Blue Zones describes the small island’s trump card—aside from light dinners and drinking hard water—as ‘plan de vida’ (reason to live), which promotes a positive outlook on elders. Keeping the elederly active and integrated, another focus is on family. “Nicoyan centenarians frequently visit with neighbours, and they tend to live with families and children or grandchildren who provide support,” Blue Zones noted. Not too shabby.
Blue Zones listed this island as “the place where people forget to die.” Over the years, Ikaria (also spelled Icaria) has formed an isolated culture rich in tradition, family values—and longevity. Sign me up for that mediterranean diet, lots of naps and mountain living and drizzle it in all in olive oil with a side of tzatziki, please.
Lastly, we find ourselves in Loma Linda, California. Surprisingly enough, not all of the US is behind in this triple-digited game of life.
According to Blue Zones, “a community of about 9,000 Adventists in the Loma Linda area are the core of America’s blue zone region.” The people here live a decade longer than the rest of us, which can be attributed to vegetarianism and regular exercise. Oh, and a lot of snacking on nuts. If you’re thinking of picking up their lifestyle habits, don’t forget to ditch the cigarettes and booze too since Adventists abstain from those. You can’t have your cake and eat it too…