In the Broadway musical Fame, Carmen sings about wanting to live forever. Unfortunately, that's not possible: According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the average life expectancy of the world's population is 67.59 years; it's approximately 78 in the United States. But there's a group of people who surpass that average by leaps and bounds. While thousands of folks live to 100, only a handful—so-called"supercentenarians"—can look back on more than 110 years of life. Even more impressive, a few hit the supercentenarian milestone and just keep going.
The U.S.-based Gerontology Research Group (GRG) maintains a list of the world's current supercentenarians. As of March 6, 2012, 71 people (65 women and six men) were listed, the youngest being 110-year-old Jeanne Rannou of France (born on Sept. 14, 1901). Each person on the GRG's list must produce documents proving their longevity, which are then verified by GRG claims investigators. Using this data, U.S. News pays tribute to the world's oldest living citizens.
10. Hina Shikawatari and Tome Takaoka (Born Jan. 1, 1899—Tied)
These women share the No. 10 spot. Both have spent their entire lives in Japan, a country with above-average life expectancy. As of September 2010, Shikawatari was living on Japan's western coast, while Takaoka resided on the opposite coast of Japan's main island. Not much else is known about these two supercentenarians, other than that they both turned 113 in January.
9. Hatsue Ono (Born Oct. 31, 1898)
Hatsue Ono was born in 1898 in Iwate Prefecture along Japan's northeast coast. Sometime in the past century, this woman moved further north to Hokkaido prefecture, Japan's second-largest island. This is where she will spend her 114th birthday in October. Hokkaido is also known for its seafood-heavy diet, rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce blood pressure and may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and dementia. Hokkaido is also known for its lush natural landscape (home to several national parks) and chilly climate. It seems that Hokkaido has been good to Ono: She is the forth-oldest living person in Japan, trumping Hina Shikawatari and Tome Takaoka by just two months.
8. Mamie Rearden (Born Sept. 7, 1898)
Mamie Rearden (née Mamie Julia Lewis) is the oldest living black person in the world. She was born in Edgefield County, S.C., in 1898, where she still lives today. After earning her teaching certificate in 1918, Rearden married her husband, Ocay, and they 11 children. She resides with two of her kids—her son, David, and her daughter, Martha—and remains in good health, having celebrated her 113th birthday in September. Her longevity secret? "Always treat others as you want to be treated. Tend to your own business and live a good, clean life and the Lord will bless you," Rearden told the Augusta Chronicle last year.
7. Marie-Thérèse Bardet (Born June 2, 1898)
Like her longevity, Marie-Thérèse Bardet's life was unusual. She was born in a public hospital in Lorient—a small town along the coast of Brittany, France—to a single woman, which was scandalous in the late 1800s. When she was 15, Bardet came down with a severe case of typhoid fever, which caused her to lose her hair and nearly her life. Since then, her family claims that Bardet has enjoyed good health. Her son Leon (who is 90 years old) told Ouest-France.com that Bardet never smoked and that he can't remember her ever drinking anything other than water. Today, France's oldest living citizen resides in the Pontchâteau nursing home in Loire-Atlantic and is preparing to celebrate her 114th birthday in June. Bardet has two children, seven grandchildren, and at least 15 great-grandchildren. (Still, Bardet has a ways to go before she trumps France's most famous supercentenarian, Jeanne Louise Calment, whose death at age 122 earned her the title of oldest person in recorded history.)