Yann Arthus-Bertrand, an environmentalist, activist, journalist and director, interviewed a series of over 2,000 senior citizens. They all lived past the age of 100 and were from 60 countries around the world; he wrote about their true-life stories and experiences, including living through poverty, domestic abuse, and even a German death camp… the notorious Auschwitz in Poland. The stories were not all bad, there were tales of love, joy and a feeling of exhilaration about being alive.  Yann was able to capture the historical stories of poverty, war, and all of the struggles and aspirations that make us human. Here are two stories that Yann revealed to the world in his documentary:

Yisrael Kristal – (born September 15, 1903 – died August 11, 2017)

Perhaps, what is the most intriguing about the fact that Yisrael Kristal lived to be 113, the oldest man in the world, is that he did it against all odds. Kristal survived, perhaps, the worlds’ worst ever atrocity; he was a Jewish survivor of the most infamous of all the World War II Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz. 

Yisrael lived in Jerusalem, but, like many Jewish people in Israel, he was from Europe. Kristal was born in the city of Zarnow, in Poland.  He was born an Orthodox Jew in 1903, during a time and place in history, when being Jewish was, for most, a certain death sentence.

In 1920, Yisrael moved to the city of Lodz, to work in the family business, and due to Nazi occupied Poland, he was later forced to live in the ghetto. According to Wikipedia, Lodz was the second-largest ghetto in German-occupied Europe (after the Warsaw Ghetto, which was the largest).  Over 400,000 Jewish men, women and children were imprisoned in the Lodz ghetto, living in an area of 1.3 square miles, with an average of 9.2 persons living in a room.

Later, Kristal was one of the millions who were transported to Auschwitz and other concentration camps.  If there was anyone who knows, first-hand, about the tragedies in life, it’s Kristal, having lost his first wife and 2 children in the Holocaust.

When the war was over, Kristal, the sole survivor of his large family of origin, and one of the few surviving Polish Jews, weighed only 81 pounds.  In the year 1950, Kristal moved to Israel with his second wife and their son.

Here is some advice that Kristal had to give about longevity and life: “I don’t know the secret of long life, “I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why.  There have been smarter, stronger and better-looking men than me who are no longer alive. All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost,” he said.

Jeralean Talley (Born May 23, 1899 – June 17th, 2015, 116 Years)

Jeralean Talley, was one of the longest living persons in the world, living to the age of 116.  In fact, at age 116, and 25 days, she was considered the world’s oldest living person.  On her 114th and 116th birthdays, former president Barack Obama sent her letters, acknowledging her supercentenarian status.
Talley, born in Montrose Georgia, in 1899 was one of 12 children; she spent much of her childhood picking cotton and peanuts on a farm in Georgia.  She moved to Michigan in 1935 and outlived her husband, Alfred, who died in 1988.
Talley lived by the age-old adage, “move it or lose it.” She lived a very active life, and right up until her death, she was busy fishing, gardening, mowing the lawn and more.  Up until the age of 104, she went bowling.  Talley’s friends and family say she was a wise, very strong-willed, honest person, with a good sense of humor.  She was known as a positive person, slow to complain, and very religious.  Here is what Talley told her friends about how to live life: “Treat people how you want to be treated, always do what’s right, you can never, ever pray enough.”


Senior Citizen Stories