At 113, one of Canada's oldest people has died in her Vancouver home
Geriatric medicine doctor calls Shige Mineshiba's long life 'amazing'
One of Canada's oldest people has died at the age of 113.
Shige Mineshiba, reported but not confirmed to be the country's oldest, died Friday in her Vancouver home, a Mount Pleasant condo she shared with her adopted daughter, Kyoko Mineshiba.
"She always believed in achievement: if you try hard, you will be number one," Kyoko, 82, said of her mother.
Shige was born near Nagoya, Japan, in 1909. She grew up on a farm with eight types of fruit trees.
She graduated high school — which Kyoko says was not common for girls at the time — and worked in insurance. She and her husband adopted Kyoko in 1941 when she was six months old.
Kyoko moved to Canada in the late 1960s. Shige and her husband, who predeceased her, joined her in Toronto.
Kyoko and Shige later moved to Vancouver, living in the condo since 2001.
It is in that condo, surrounded by over a century of family photos and birthday greetings from Queen Elizabeth II and former governor general David Johnston for turning 110, Shige died of advanced age.
Officials won't confirm
Some newspapers and online resources have said Shige was Canada's oldest person at the time of her death but no official body has confirmed this.
B.C.'s Ministry of Citizen's Services wouldn't name Shige or anyone else as the oldest person in this province, citing privacy reasons.
The Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group (GRG), which works to validate claims of long-lived people, has not looked into Shige's age as they have not received a request from her family or anyone else to investigate.
GRG research director Robert Young says Canada has no national agency with records of the country's oldest person.
According to some online sources, Mabel Mah of Victoria is now Canada's oldest person at the tender age of 112. The GRG has not confirmed her age either.
'Life is a lot more than a number': professor
Regardless, University of British Columbia professor of medicine Dr. Roger Wong says an age of 113 is "an amazing number."
"But life is a lot more than a number," Wong said.
"Geriatric doctors and other health-care professionals, what we try to work towards is helping support individuals in the community to live not only for longer [but] to leading meaningful lives … as they grow older.
"That is the important piece."
Canadians are living longer, Wong says, and B.C. has seen its population of people age over 100 grow 14 per cent between the 2016 and 2021 censuses.
He says genetics are part of the equation for people who live to be supercentenarians — Shige had a sister who lived to 109, for instance — but there are three lifestyle factors many share: regular exercise, plenty of social contact, and a good diet.
Kyoko adds that a big piece for her mother was an attitude of appreciation for life's simple pleasures and the people around her.
"She always thanked me: 'arigato!' When the community nurse comes in, she goes, 'arigato!'" Kyoko said.
There's also one secret ingredient, she added: a cup of matcha tea every morning, not too hot.
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