By Kpakae L. Roberts (Proponent-Researcher, Longevity Research Program)
In May 2015, a research program on Longevity for Centenarians was established to conduct an inquiry in order to declare and confirm Liberia as a “Blue Zone”. Blue Zones are geographical locations with a high concentration of the world’s longest-living people.
When in June 2015 the Longevity Researchers in Liberia reported the discovery of a very old Nimbaian woman named Klayonoh Bleorplue, just exactly how old was a matter of debate. Klayonoh Bleorplue claimed to have been born in 1863, during Steven A. Benson’s reign, which made her 153 at the time of her death on August 8, 2016.
A few Liberian Medical Doctors and scholars, including former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, doubting that the woman had not given the Longevity Researchers her real birthday, went to work to figure out the truth. Not long afterward, Dr. Bernice Dahn, former Minister of Health, requested that a DNA test be conducted to authenticate the real age of the centenarian.
Samples of specimen were taken from the centenarian for pros at consciousness DNA laboratories to investigate, conduct and authenticate the real age of Madam Klayonoh Bleorplue. But up to date, nothing has been done – the DNA test hasn’t been conducted – and there is no result.
Now, other centenarians, old man Blama Seh and Madam Miatta Haja Sanyon, have been discovered by the Longevity researchers as the two oldest living centenarians in Liberia. They are currently alive at their home towns in Beh Sao, Bomi, and Bopolu, Gbapolu, counties, respectively; just exactly how old will be another matter of debate, as it has been in the case of the late Madam Klayonoh Bleorplue.
The only undisputed fact about centenarians’ life is the date of their death. The rest of their stories are pastiche of legends, rumors, and tall tales cobbled together from shadowy sources obtained from family members, closed relatives, friends, and sympathizers.
Let us first take a close look at old man Blama Seh. He was born in Beh Sao, the mountainous region of Bomi Hills now commonly known as Bomi County, in 1855 during Steven A. Benson’s tenure as the 3rd Vice president to J.J. Roberts; the information about his birth supposedly attests to by some kinsmen states that centenarian Blama Seh spent his first hundred year hiking around Bomi and parts of Cape Mount County farming, harvesting rice, fruits, and vegetables, gathering and selling. Along the way, he also held several traditional posts such as Town Chief, among others. Longevity researchers are always visiting centenarians so that they might study their secrets to extraordinarily graceful aging. Subsequent reports, a factual account of the 161-year-old “Blessed Man,” described Blama Seh as having very handsome face and a fair complexion, which was an uncommon trait among Liberian men of their era. It was on one of the Longevity researchers’ data collection trips that reporters of the Daily Observer and Inquirer newspapers went along with the proponent of the Longevity Research Program and caught up with Blama Seh, reporting that many of the old-timers in Blama Seh’s neighborhood said that he had spent time with their grandfathers and that he had been a great farmer who made larger farms and was the highest producer of rice, fruits, and vegetables. Mr. Blama Seh is alive with his 134-years-old wife, besides 140 supposed descendants, a simple axiom for longevity.
If there’s one longevity secret you haven’t really shared in, this may be it – it seems as if Miatta Haja Sanyon’s parents had found a way to go back in time and select parents with better genes. According to Miatta’s pedigree, it is believed that during her parents’ incarnation they chose their mother and father. This is a religious belief.
Scientifically, let’s look at what we may call telomeres — structures found at the ends of chromosomes. They are the protective caps of our chromosomes. These protective caps at the ends of our chromosomes may have definite lengths. They work in ways that either limit or expand the lifespan of cells. Lengthy or longer telomeres may probably be linked to a youthful vibrance, healthy and longer lifespan free from age-related ailments; while shortened or shorter telomeres have been linked to age-related ailments and haggard skin and perhaps shorter lifespan.
Liberian Longivity researchers believe that when centenarians diets are studied, their diets will reveal the secrets of what increases their telomeres activity which may be found in certain types of immune cells – perhaps eating such diet like plant-based or nutraceuticals – foods that could be used for their medicinal properties, which probably might have prevented the centenarians’ telomeres from deteriorating. Regulation of the metabolism of certain essential substances may be critical in this process, and might enable us to prevent and treat any diseases. So Miatta is in good health as well as her entire generation has that tendency of living longer as it is inherited from her parents genetically. She’s alive in Bassa Town, Jamaica Road, with her daughters, sons, grand children, and great grand children. Miatta Haja Sanyon was born in 1863, which made her the oldest-living female centenarian in Liberia, besides 157 supposed descendants, a simple axiom for longevity. She is a widow.