This week a Peruvian women who claimed to be one of the oldest living people in the world, if not the oldest, passed away. Filomena Taipe Mendoza of the Acoria district in Huancavelica died at the age of 117 years on April 5th, 2015 at 2:00 pm.
Born on December 20th, 1897 in the town of Pucuto, Filomena Taipe Mendoza spent all of her life in her tiny village where she was widowed at a young age. According to different reports, she raised either 9 or 12 children, has 25 grandchildren, and 35 great-grandchildren. Of the 9 or 12 children, only 3 survive and were in communication with her up to the time of her death.
Filomena lived in extreme poverty for all of her life and was only known by people of her village until she recently went to sign up for a senior citizens pension plan. When she was first visited by officials, they discovered she didn’t have any form of identification and was essentially living illegally and undocumented. After a long process of investigation, the Peruvian government determined that she was born on Dec. 20th, 1897 and issued her a DNI, essentially Peru’s version of a social security card and number.
With her new ID Filomena was able to sign up for the Pension 65 plan and received a bi-monthly payment of S/.250 and free health care. When she went to pick up her first check, the Peruvian government reports that she stated to the present officials: “I am not of the past century, young man, but the other one… I am very old.”
She claimed that her secret to long life lay in her diet. “My secret for living over 100 years has been natural food, I always eat papa, oca, mashua, goat’s meat and cheese, milk, and fava beans. Everything I cook is from the land, I don’t eat from cans neither packages, I don’t drink sodas,” Filomena stated in an interview last year. She claims that during her long-life she never once ate packaged food but only prepared and ate things she grew in her chakra, or field.
While the Peruvian government issued her an official DINI card with her date of birth as Dec. 20th, 1897, there are skeptics who still are unconvinced by her claims to age. If Filomena was indeed born on this date, it would have made her the oldest living person when she was alive.
Sadly, Filomena was not the only supercentenarian, or person over 110 years old, to have passed away this month. For those who don’t believe in coincidences, here is something interesting to ponder.
Filomena Taipe Mendoza of Peru was born on Dec. 20th, 1897 and died on April 5th, 2015. She was 117 years and 106 days old.
Misao Okawa of Japan was born two and a half months later on March 1898 and died on April 1st, 2015. She was 117 years and 27 days old.
Gertrude Weaver of the United States was born four months later than Misao Okawa on July 4th, 1898 and died on April 6th, 2015. She was 116 and 276 days old.
Dr. Stephen Coles, the director of the Gerontology Research Group, an international organization that investigates claims to old age, explains that there is little evidence to explain why some people live longer than others. Their investigations rarely find connections between cases. To the contrary, he often notes that what one person claims as their secret to old age, directly contradicts what another centenarian claims as the reason for their long life.