The world's oldest person, a Japanese woman, died today, a few weeks after celebrating her 117th birthday. Misao Okawa died of heart failure and stopped breathing as relatives and nursing home workers stood by her side and praised her long, healthy life, said Tomohiro Okada, an official at her Osaka nursing home. "She went so peacefully, as if she had just fallen asleep," Okada says. "We miss her a lot." A 116-year-old American woman, Gertrude Weaver of Arkansas, is now the world's oldest person, according to Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, which keeps records of supercentenarians. She was born July 4, 1898.
Okawa, born in Osaka on March 5, 1898, was recognized as the world's oldest person by Guinness World Records in 2013. She lost her appetite about 10 days ago. Until then, she had been eating well, enjoying her daily cup of coffee and her favorite dishes, including ramen. Okawa, the daughter of a kimono maker, said at her recent birthday celebration that her life seemed rather short. Asked for the secret of her longevity, she responded nonchalantly, "I wonder about that, too." She married her husband, Yukio, in 1919, and they had two daughters and a son. She is survived by four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren; her husband died in 1931. Japan's oldest person is now a 115-year-old Tokyo woman. Japan has the most centenarians in the world, with more than 58,000, per its government. About 87% are women.