The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

At age 114, this South African man thinks it’s time to quit smoking

The year Fredie Blom was born, in 1904, Rolls-Royce rolled out its first car and the Wright brothers built their second powered airplane.

Theodor Seuss Geisel came into the world. New York opened its subway system and celebrated New Year's Eve in Times Square. And American Major League Baseball player Denton True “Cy” Young pitched a perfect game.

Earlier this month, Blom, who is believed to be the oldest man alive, celebrated his 114th birthday at his home in Delft, a township outside Cape Town, South Africa, according to the Western Cape Department of Social Development. Video footage shows Blom wearing a yellow and green baseball cap and a sport coat. In the video, he says that although he has lived a long life, he does not know the secret to his success.

“There's only one thing — it's the man above,” he said, crediting God for his longevity, according to BBC News. “He's got all the power. I have nothing. I can drop over anytime, but He holds me.”

“I feel very healthy, I'm good,” Blom added. “My heart is strong, but it's only my legs that are giving in — I can't walk the way I used to.”

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He told BBC News that he gave up alcohol years ago, but he still smokes tobacco several times per day. Specifically, he said, he smokes “pills,” a term used by the locals to mean tobacco rolled in newspaper, resembling a cigarette, according to BBC News.

“I use my own tobacco, because I don't smoke cigarettes,” the 114-year-old said.

But he wants to quit.

“The urge to smoke is so strong,” he told BBC News. “Sometimes I tell myself I'm going to stop, but it's just me lying to myself. My chest chases me to have a puff, and I'm then forced to make a 'pill.'

“I blame the devil for that because he's so strong.”

Still, it hasn't seemed to hurt him. Blom has no real health issues — only a slower gait and some trouble hearing, according to BBC News.

He is believed to have outlived every other man on Earth, though the Western Cape Department of Social Development said in a statement that he has “yet to be recognized by the Guinness World Records organization.”

In April, Guinness World Records named Japan's Masazo Nonaka the oldest living person (male). Nonaka, 112, from Ashoro, Hokkaido, assumed the title from a man in Spain, who died this year at the age of 113.

But it is France's Jeanne Louise Calment who holds the Guinness record for the “oldest person ever.” The woman, from Arles in southern France, was 122 when she died in 1997.

Guinness World Records said Blom is not being considered for an award.

“We receive many applications from individuals who claim to be the oldest living person (male or female) and see many reports about such individuals,” a Guinness World Records spokeswoman said in a statement Tuesday to The Washington Post. “However, we ask for a great deal of paperwork and proof to substantiate claims that meet our official guidelines. We also work with various expert gerontologists and consultants who assist in the investigation of such claims to ensure our facts are correct.”

But she said that if Blom wants to apply, Guinness will work to determine his eligibility.

It's not only Blom's long life that has made him a local celebrity; he is also still married.

His wife, Jeanette, who is about three decades younger than he is, told CGTN that the couple met at a dance and developed a friendship that lasted 12 years. Eventually, she said, the two got married and have been together for nearly 50 years.

Born in 1904 in Adelaide in the Eastern Cape province, Blom never went to school to learn how to read or write, according to BBC News. He earned his education outdoors, hunting birds, and later went to work as a farm laborer, installing precast concrete walls throughout Cape Town. It wasn't until he reached his 80s that he retired.

Family members said he still works with his hands, “making fire” and working around the home.

“God says, 'Honor your father and your mother, then your future will be good,' ” Blom told News 24.

This report has been updated.

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