Life of world’s oldest person, aged 119, in Vietnam

By Ngoc Ngan   March 6, 2024 | 07:45 pm PT
Life of world’s oldest person, aged 119, in Vietnam
Trinh Thi Khong, 119 years old, with her granddaughter at home in Long Khanh town, southern Dong Nai province, in March 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Ngan
For a week now 119-year-old Trinh Thi Khong, the world’s oldest woman, and her family have been welcoming strangers after a video about her went viral on social media.

Born in 1905 in Trieu Son District, central Thanh Hoa Province, Khong is now living in Long Khanh town of southern Dong Nai province.

She married a man from the same village, and they had three children. Tragically, he lost his life during the First Indochina War in 1950. Khong remarried and had four more children over the next decade.

Following the reunification of Vietnam in 1975, Khong’s second daughter, Do Thi Ninh (now 82 years old), moved to Long Khanh after marriage.

Khong relocated to the south to live with her daughter’s family. A few years later Khong's youngest son also moved to the south, while her remaining five children continued to live in the north.

Even when she was well over 80 once every few months Khong would travel alone by train or bus from Dong Nai to Thanh Hoa to visit her family.

She believes regular exercise and self-reliance are the secret to her longevity, good health, and lucidity.

"My mother does not like to bother anyone," Ninh says. "She is still very lucid."

Even after turning 100 Khong loved to work. Neighbors say they saw her get up early every day to do chores around the house like weeding the yard, gardening and cleaning.

She could still help the family with tasks that require nimble fingers such as extracting jackfruit pods or peeling peanuts.

Ninh says: "She would get very upset if we prevented her from helping. It kept her brain working and her body healthy."

She believes this is also why at the age of 119, her mother still remembers the faces and names of her 110 children, in-laws and grandchildren.

Khong is a loving person and teaches her large brood to always love one another and stay united no matter what. Her 60-year-old grandson, Thanh Xuan, says they typically have two family reunions every year: during Lunar New Year and his grandmother’s birthday in June.

Due to their large number, the family typically visits her in smaller groups. Khong insists that no money should be brought to these reunions because the joy of being with each other is precious enough.

Since they were young Khong taught her children to be thoughtful and considerate towards one another. Though they now live far away from each other, they maintain regular contact through weekly phone calls.

"Outsiders would not know we are half-siblings because of our closeness," Ninh says.

"My mother loves and treats every family member equally, even her children-in-law".

In 2022 Ninh's husband passed away at the age of 96. The family decided to hide the truth from Khong, temporarily moving her to a relative’s house 15 kilometres away.

Once the funeral was over she returned home to find her son-in-law was not there. Her persistent inquiries then elicited the heartbreaking reality, and her grief for her son-in-law’s death was profound, a testament to her loving nature and emotional connection with people.

Trinh Thi Khong’s grandchildren organized a birthday party for her when she turned 113. Photo courtesy of Khong’s family

Trinh Thi Khong’s grandchildren organized a birthday party for her when she turned 113. Photo courtesy of Khong’s family

Three years ago Khong had a fall that resulted in a broken bone, significantly impacting her health. Since then she has relied on her daughter and three grandchildren for daily activities, including eating and bathing.

Khong’s daily meals consist of thin porridge, bird’s nest, milk, and soft fruit. On good days she sits up and engages in conversations with her family.

"Sometimes she forgets things, and asks the same question three or four times, but her old memories remain intact, and she never confuses between any of her children", Ninh says.

According to Nguyen Van Lao, chairman of the Elderly Association of Binh Loc commune, Long Khanh, every year the association visits Khong on her birthday, taking gifts and just celebrating her remarkable life.

Everyone in the neighborhood likes the centenarian for her amicable personality and kindness.

Since the beginning of March this year her days have been filled with joy due to the influx of daily visitors. A viral video sharing her life story on social media garnered nearly two million views and over 1,500 affectionate comments, mostly expressing wishes for her continued good health and longevity.

Some also pointed out that Khong is two years older than the person recognized by the Guinness World Records as the oldest, Maria Branyas Morera of the U.S.

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