From Pork To Onion Sandwiches: Secrets To Supersurvivors' Long Lives At 115, Jeralean Talley is the world's oldest living person. She inherited the title from a 116-year-old Arkansan who died this week. NPR's Tamara Keith reflects on the secrets of a good, long life.
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From Pork To Onion Sandwiches: Secrets To Supersurvivors' Long Lives

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From Pork To Onion Sandwiches: Secrets To Supersurvivors' Long Lives

From Pork To Onion Sandwiches: Secrets To Supersurvivors' Long Lives

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TAMARA KEITH, HOST:

Jeralean Talley is the world's oldest living person. She is 115 years old and inherited the title earlier this week from a 116-year-old Arkansas woman who died of pneumonia. She was preceded by a 117-year-old woman from Japan who died the week before. Death, it seems, is a hazard of being the oldest person in the world. And in the case of those who outlast the rest and earn the title of most senior human, it is often a life well lived. Jeralean Talley is a case in point. "I don't feel sick," she told a reporter from Time magazine. "I'm still trying to do the right thing, is all." No article about a 115-year-old would be complete without revealing the secret to his or her success. For Talley, it's all about eating lots of pork. She's a fan of hog's head cheese, which is a combination of pig trimmings suspended in gelatin. Other supersurvivors have credited sushi, onion sandwiches, chocolate, cigars and of course, clean living. This reminds me of an interview I did almost a decade ago when I was a reporter for KPCC, with a man who was, at the time, California's oldest surviving World War I veteran.

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GEORGE HENRY JOHNSON: My name is George Henry Johnson.

KEITH: When were you born?

JOHNSON: I was born on May the 1, 1894.

KEITH: So you're 112, now?

JOHNSON: I'm 112 years old today, yes, that's what I am. It's not my fault. (Laughter).

KEITH: It is one of my favorite interviews, ever. He was charming and hilarious. I had to shout all of my questions because he really couldn't hear. I asked him if he had a cell phone, and he pointed to the cordless landline phone sitting on its cradle next to his easy chair. I wasn't going to explain. This is a man who marveled at crank engines on the first motorized cars, who built his three-story home by hand and who saw an almost unfathomable amount of change in his lifetime. He had no need to know about my fancy-at-the-time flip phone or the iPod I thought was life changing. So of course, I asked him about his secret to success. He never suffered for want, did everything for himself and...

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JOHNSON: I'm going to tell you the God's honest truth. And this is the God's honest truth whether you believe it or not - I've never drank enough liquor in my life to make myself feel like I was drunk.

KEITH: He died a few months after our interview, but it was hard to feel sad. The inevitable caught up with George Johnson, but he had lived a full life.

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