Alexander Imich, an 111-year-old Polish immigrant and Soviet gulag survivor who lives in Manhattan, became the world's oldest living man last month when the previous record-holder, Arturo Licata, died just days before his 112th birthday.
“Not like it’s the Nobel Prize," Imich told the New York Times after being pronounced oldest man on earth by the Gerontology Research Group. “I never thought I’d be that old.”
According to the Gerontology group, there are 66 living women older than Imich, including a Japanese woman, Misao Okawa, who is 116.
Imich was born on Feb. 4, 1903, in Poland, and grew up in Czestochowa in southern Poland. He and his second wife, Wela, a painter and psychotherapist, immigrated to Waterbury, Conn., in 1951. Imich moved to New York in 1986 after Wela's death.
In his late 20s, the Times reports, he "grew fascinated with a Polish medium who was known as Matylda S., a doctor’s widow gaining renown for séances that reportedly called up the dead." He became a scholar of the occult, eventually editing an anthology — “Incredible Tales of the Paranormal: Documented Accounts of Poltergeist, Levitations, Phantoms, and Other Phenomena" — that was published in 1995, when Imich was 92.
So what's the supercentenarian's secret? Here's what he told the Times:
• Not having children.
• Not drinking alcohol.
• Quitting smoking.
• Playing multiple sports. “I was a gymnast,” he said. “Good runner, a good springer. Good javelin, and I was a good swimmer.”
• A diet "inspired by Eastern mystics who disdain food," the Times said. (According to Imich's caregivers, he eats matzo balls, gefilte fish, chicken noodle soup, Ritz crackers, scrambled eggs, chocolate and ice cream.)
• "Good genes," Imich said.