The oldest man in the world in 2014 was Alexander Imich, a Polish immigrant to the US, living in New York. He was born in Poland on Feb. 4, 1903. Imich was old enough to remember the first aeroplanes which were a novelty and flown at shows for entertainment, and the first car in his hometown. He was an educated man, with a doctorate from Krakow university, well-travelled, despite the fact he encountered resistance to his career ambitions as he was a Jew. This opposition forced him to abandon his dreams of being first a navy captain and then a zoologist and travelling through Africa. Blocked from advancement he did not give up but took up chemistry instead. He continued to educate himself throughout life, publishing a book at the age of 92 called Incredible Tales of the Paranormal published by Bramble Books in 1995, and instituting the Imich prize for paranormal activity. He wrote numerous papers for journals in the field and started the Anomalous Phenomena Research Center in 1999, trying to find a way to produce “The Crucial Demonstration”, the goal of which is to demonstrate the reality of paranormal phenomena to mainstream scientists and the general public. “I have a great hunger for knowledge,” he said. Dr. Imich had a small telescope in his home and avidly followed what he called the “sensational developments” in this field.
He married a childhood sweetheart who a few years later left him for another man, whereupon he married her friend, Wela. When the Nazis overran Poland in 1939, they fled east to Soviet-occupied Bialystok. Refusing to accept Soviet nationality, they were shipped to a labour camp. They were told, “Here you will work and here you will die, because you are enemies of our government,” and endured three years of temperatures as low as -50 ˚C, small portions of often inedible food, and constant physical toil. At the end of the war he discovered many relatives had perished in the holocaust.
His survival bears witness to his ability to manage external hardship and stressful thoughts.
He enjoyed athletics. “I was a gymnast,” he says. “Good runner, a good springer. Good javelin, and I was a good swimmer.”
He and his wife never had children. That might have helped, he suggests (his closest relative is an 84-year-old nephew.)
His savings vanished in dubious investments, and he was assisted by The New York Times Neediest Cases campaign.
He always ate sparingly, inspired by Eastern mystics who disdain food. In fact since early childhood, Dr. Imich followed many practices now known to prolong human life: exercise, calorie restriction, healthy diet, supplementation, meditation and staying mentally active, continuing to educate himself throughout life. He drank wine but avoided the following : strong spirits, red meat, cheese, eggs, white flour baked goods, potatoes, sugar, fried foods, cow’s milk and coffee. He also did not drink tap water or smoke – having stopped over 50 years before his death.
What can we learn from Dr Imich?
1. The earlier we start practising staying ageless, the longer the effect.
2. He had a sense of humour. When told he was the world’s oldest man he quipped, “Not like it’s the Nobel Prize”, and his hearing aid popped out, whereupon he laughed.
3. He endured at times extreme stress (being left for someone else by his first wife, the Gulag, losing all his savings) but he carried on with sport and education regardless. Stress can trigger repair mechanisms if we manage it correctly.
4. He practised calorie restriction and ate a healthy diet.
5. He was physically (swimming is practised by many centenarians) and mentally active, and continued to have life goals into great old age.
6. He gave up smoking.
7. He had good genes – other people in his family were long-lived.
8. Spirituality – Imich was fascinated by the paranormal and practised meditation.
9. Loving support from his second wife.
So, even if we can only manage half of the above, we’re on the right track.
Alexander Imich died in June 2014 at the age of 111.