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The oldest living things on this planet have a lot to teach

Photo courtesy hisnow

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Tree in California White Mountains Inyo National Forest is one of the oldest trees in the country at almost 5,000 years old.

By Lisa Mullen


We’ve all been taught to respect our elders, but we could learn a lot about how to live life after examining the lives of the oldest human, animal, and tree. Though they are all different, they all share certain commonalities that have helped to extend their lives beyond what is known to be a ‘normal’ lifespan.

Kane Tanaka was born in the village of Wajiro, Japan on Jan. 2, 1903, and was the seventh of nine children. At 117, she is the oldest person living today. To put that into perspective, when Tanaka was born, the Wright Brothers made their first flight and the Tour de France had its inaugural bike race.

Tanaka enjoys drinking the occasional Coca-Cola as well as eating chocolate. She gets up at 6 a.m. and enjoys doing mathematical calculations and calligraphy as well as playing the game of Othello. Tanaka has stated that family, hope, and sleep are her secrets to a long life.

At approximately 188 years old, we can also learn lessons from a giant Seychelles tortoise named Jonathan who is living out his exceptionally long retirement on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic.

Jonathan is the oldest known living land animal in the world and it is estimated that he was hatched in 1832 predating the first photograph of a person in 1838 and the first use of a lightbulb in 1878, and of course, he’s seen 39 U.S. presidents come and go.

Though we can’t ask him what the secret is to his long life, we know that tortoises eat a strict vegetarian diet of mostly greens, meaning no buildup of fat and cholesterol. They are also safe from most predators due to the protection their hard shells provide.

But the winner of this age contest is a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine located in eastern California’s Inyo National Forest. This pine tree is named Methuselah after the biblical figure who lived for 969 years.

The tree is estimated to be 4,852 years old, and its location has been kept secret since 1957 for fears of vandalism if people were to find out where it is. It is mind-boggling to realize the Methuselah tree germinated before the Egyptian pyramids were even built. Bristlecones are survivalists. They grow with little soil and an annual average of only 12 inches of precipitation in the form of mostly snow. They spread their roots far and wide to take advantage of all the scarce nutrients and water available to them, and they shed very few of their pine needles, greatly reducing the threat of a catastrophic fire.

These trees can also endure great stresses such as drought. In such times, the tree will become almost dormant shutting down all non-essential cell use until the drought is over, then the tree will reawaken itself.

So, to live a long life, here is some advice from our elderly friends. From Tanaka, always keep learning to keep your mind sharp, get enough sleep and strengthen your ties with family and friends whenever possible.

Jonathan the tortoise shows us the importance of diet for a long life emphasizing to eat your vegetables and don’t go looking for trouble. And Methuselah the tree has arguably the best advice in spread your roots far and wide as everyone needs help to get through life.

And finally, just like Methuselah, in times of stress, take time to take care of yourself first.



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