Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:06 AM April 11, 2015
WASHINGTON—At 115, Jeralean Talley is now the world’s oldest person. The American leads the elite club of “supercentenarians” —people more than 111 years old.
It’s not as small a club as you might think. More than 50 people have passed the milestone.
After Monday’s death of fellow American Gertrude Weaver, who would have turned 117 on July 4, Talley is the oldest person recorded by the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group (GRG).
An African-American, she was born in the US state of Georgia at the end of the 19th century on May 23, 1899. These days she lives near Detroit.
Talley is part of an even more restricted club of three people recorded as having seen three centuries: The final years of the 19th, the full sweep of the 20th and the start of the 21st.
In this she joins Susannah Mushatt Jones, also an African-American, born July 6, 1899, and Italy’s Emma Morano-Martinuzzi, born Nov. 29, 1899.
50 women, 2 men
The GRG, which bases its tally on the work of researchers, demographers, biologists and amateur enthusiasts, has for now counted 52 people—50 women and two men—who have surpassed 111 years and can prove it with birth and marriage certificates.
“Ninety-nine percent of people that claim to be over 115 turn out to be false,” said Robert Young, a GRG researcher and an expert for the Guinness Book of World Records.
Peru’s Filomena Taipe, who authorities said died on Monday at age 117, did not have original proof of birth, said Young. The Peruvian government said she was born on Dec. 20, 1897, the date on her identity card.
Secret of longevity
He estimated at more than 1,000 the number who might be 110 and at around 300 those certified as having that many years under their belt.
Talley took the title held for five days by Weaver following the death of Japan’s Misao Okawa. She died on April 1, less than a month after turning 117.
Talley told the Detroit Free Press the secret to her longevity comes “from above.”
“That’s the best advice I can give you. It’s not in my hands or your hands,” she said, pointing toward the heavens.
Time Magazine, who contacted her only daughter, 77-year-old Thelma Holloway, said the new doyenne eats lots of pork, is a true night owl and kept up her bowling hobby until age 104.
On her birthdays, she likes to go fishing.
Susannah Mushatt Jones, born in Alabama, has no children. She studied “negro music in France” and likes fine lingerie and barbecues, according to media reports.
They eat in moderation
These supercentenarians, Young said, “have taken care of themselves, they stay independent, are mentally strong. They have social networks, such as church and family.”
They stayed active for a long time, sleep well and eat in moderation. Genetics also plays a role.
“You also have to live your life the right way,” Young said. “You have to keep your vices in check.”
Sarah Knauss, an American who died at age 119, hated vegetables and Jeanne Calment of France, who died at age 122, smoked two or three cigarettes a day, Young added.
The number of supercentenarians could well grow because life expectancy is growing and the world population is also increasing.
The record for the person to have lived the longest is still held by Calment of France. She died in 1997 at age 122 years and 164 days.
Talley’s husband died in 1988. In 2013, her 114th birthday drew the attention of US President Barack Obama, who said she’s “part of an extraordinary generation.” Reports from AFP and AP