European Supercentenarian Organisation - validation of exceptional longevity

Mission

The mission of the ESO is to validate European supercentenarians, people who have reached the age of 110 years or above. We want data and information to be easily accessible to the public and to researchers. Futhermore, we are keen to work with scientists to facilitate research into ageing so that we can understand how supercentenarians age; what genetic, environmental, social, cultural, and lifestyle factors contribute to their longevity; and what this may mean for the future in ageing societies.

Goals

The ESO works towards a number of goals:

  1. Establishing a network of collaborating researchers in Europe who are able to validate and provide information on supercentenarians.
  2. Validating supercentenarians from as many European countries as possible, both living and deceased.
  3. Validating emigrated European supercentenarians, both living and deceased.
  4. Providing a repository of biographical information on supercentenarians through interviews, newspaper articles, and other forms of media.
  5. Securing privacy for the documented supercentenarians: information / documentation which is not in the public domain will not be shared on the website.
  6. Working with scientists who need a reliable source for their research on the genetics of the oldest people.
  7. Contribute to longevity research through the publication of data and visualisations of demographic analyses, life expectancies and lifestyle factors common among the oldest people.

The validation process

In order to thoroughly and reliably validate a supercentenarian, various documents are required to prove their age. In addition to these documents, peripheral information such as a family tree and biographical details may also be of value in strengthening the validation. With regard to the submitted documentation, validation can be completed once the following criteria are met:

  1. At least one of the submitted documents must be from the first twenty years of the claimant's life. Examples of such a document are an original birth record or baptismal record, or census records.
  2. At least one of the submitted documents must be from an event in the "middle" of the claimant's life, such as a marriage record (in case of a female claimant this proves name change), a child's birth record, or census records.
  3. At least one of the submitted documents must be from the claimant's later life, such as an electoral role record, recent ID card, passport, or driving licence. In case of a deceased supercentenarian, this late-life document could also be a death record.*
  4. The researchers who submit documentation for a supercentenarian will also provide a validation summary in English (including translations of documents), in which they use unique identifiers to explain how the different documents prove that the person at birth is the same person who attained an age of 110 or above. This validation will subsequently be under review; after approval, the case is accepted as validated.

* Due to stricter European privacy laws, effective 25 May 2018, it has become more difficult to obtain copies of recent ID cards, passports, or driving licences. Therefore, a validation can now also take place by providing thorough information on a family tree, as well as including media coverage that proves the person in question has consistently claimed to be of this age for a number of years.

The validation categories

Once the process has been completed, supercentenarians fall into seven different categories:

  1. High level validated. This means that the person's age has been proven to be true and is covered by documentation from all stages of their lives.
  2. Mid level validated. This means that there is strong evidence for the person's age, which is covered by documentation from all stages of their lives. However, the early life documentation does not explicitly state a full date of birth. Instead, this may be covered by another source, such as a baptism record, or their age on a census return.
  3. Low level validated. This means that the person's birth date is believed to be true on the balance of evidence, but documentation from stages of their life might be lacking, inconsistent or of less thorough quality.
  4. Unvalidated. This means that either late-life documentation has been submitted, or the organisation has been notified of a supercentenarian's claim (but has not received any documentation yet).
  5. High level debunked. This means that the supercentenarian's claim has been disproven and the person in question was not at least 110 years old.
  6. Low level debunked. This means that the person in question is likely not a supercentenarian, but it is difficult to determine how old this person exactly was.

In addition, two additional terms that are used in this organisation are 'limbo' and 'unreported death'. 'Limbo' means that it cannot be guaranteed that a particular supercentenarian is still alive - as in, this person has gone unreported for at least a year. 'Unreported death' signifies that a supercentenarian is known to be deceased, but either the exact date of death is unknown, or sources disagree on the exact date of death.