Ask any adult in our region how old they are and you are likely to get a vague answer. Most folks over 40 don’t know their precise age. It wasn’t until the 80s that many people began getting government issued birth certificates and IDs.
Sometimes I ask about an elderly person’s age and I get the answer “more than 100.” Basically, that means “he/she is super old and we aren’t sure.”
I also see lots of “In Memorium” shirts worn that tout the deceased’s age as having reached well over a hundred. The highest I’ve seen was a girl at church wearing one for her great-grandmother that claimed she reached 165!
Recently, while visiting a friend in the nearby village of Zamburugu, I met a sweet elderly woman whose family identified as being 135. That would put birth as having occured in 1880. That’s the year James Garfield was elected president of the United States (in the smallest popular vote victory ever record, no less).
So how are they coming up with ages for these centenarians?
I polled some folks and found out that their rule of thumb is to get the age of their eldest child and add 25 years. So if your first-born is 50, you’re around 75. For the very aged, they often have to get their eldest’s eldest’s eldest and add 75.
Now that still doesn’t account for ages that surpass 115 years. After all, only 39 people in recorded history have indisputably reached that age.
Since the numbers years is seen as signifying respect, wisdom and strength I’m guessing that they typically get exaggerated by loving descendants who have the best of intentions.