18 December 2012

Dina Manfredini, Oldest Living Person, Dies at 115

Less than two weeks after becoming the world's oldest living person, Dina Manfredini of Iowa, United States, passed away in her sleep at the age of 115 years, 257 days. Born on 4 April 1897, Manfredini succeeded Besse Cooper on 4 December 2012, when the latter died of natural causes aged 116 years, 100 days.
Manfredini was one of the 10 oldest people ever at the time of her death on 17 December 2012, and was the oldest known immigrant ever.
Manfredini's death also gives rise to a rare occurrence, that of a man taking the title of world's oldest person. He is Jiroemon Kimura of Kyoto, Japan, who has also been Japan's oldest person for over a year after the death of Chiyono Hasegawa at age 115 on 2 December 2011. Aged 115 years, 242 days at the time of Manfredini's death, Kimura is also less than two weeks from surpassing the verified record for the longest male lifespan in history, set by Christian Mortensen upon his death at 115 years 252 days. Manfredini's death also passes the title of world's oldest woman to Koto Okubo of Kanagawa, Japan, born 24 December 1897.
Click for a news report on Manfredini's death.

05 December 2012

Besse Cooper, World's Oldest, Dies at 116

Besse Cooper, seen above at her 116th birthday in August 2012, has passed away as the world's oldest living person. Cooper died in Monroe, Georgia, USA, in the afternoon of 4 December 2012, aged 116 years, 100 days. Listed as the world's oldest living person from 21 June 2011 upon the death of Brazilian Maria Gomes Valentim, Cooper was also thought to be the world's oldest person between 31 January and 18 May 2011, prior to the validation of Valentim's age.
Cooper, who famously named minding one's own business and abstinence from junk food as the key to a long life, was the last living person born in 1896 and the last person born during Grover Cleveland's second presidency from 1893 to 1897. Born on 26 August 1896 in Tennessee, USA, Cooper worked as a teacher in Georgia during her life and had four children in total with her husband, Luther Cooper, who died in 1963.
On the day of her passing, Cooper, who was then still recovering from a stomach virus, had watched a Christmas video in the assisted-living centre where she was living, but later retired to her room after experiencing breathing difficulties, where she passed away at two o'clock that afternoon.
Click for a report from CNN News.

Dina Manfredini, 115, Now World's Oldest Person

In the interim following the death of Besse Cooper as the world's oldest living person on 4 December 2012, Dina Guerri-Manfredini of Iowa, USA, is now the world's oldest person at the age of 115 years, 244 days. Born in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, on 4 April 1897, Manfredini is the first Italian-descent person to reach world's oldest person status in close to sixty years, since fellow Italian Rosalia Spoto became the world's oldest person in the autumn of 1955.
Manfredini, who did not move into a retirement home until she was 110, also in April became the first Italian-descent person to reach age 115, and has been the oldest-ever Italian-born since December 2011.
Aged twenty-three, Manfredini arrived in the United States from Italy on 22 December 1920 on the RMS Olympic, a sister ship of the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
She is also one of the 11 oldest people on record, and until Besse Cooper's death was one of three living people aged 115 or more for over seven months in 2012.
At her last birthday, she was reported to be in good health despite having hearing difficulties, and had recently reverted to speaking in her native Italian tongue.
Click for a report on Manfredini's 115th birthday in April this year.
Edit (6 Dec 2012): Dina Manfredini has now been declared by Guinness World Records as the oldest living person in the world at age 115.

02 October 2012

Fan Shee Hoo

Fan Shee Hoo was an unvalidated Chinese-Canadian claimant to extreme longevity, with a claimed birthdate of 18 December 1895. In earlier reports, she was said to have been born on 14 December; the later of the two dates appeared on her public obituary.
Born in a rural village in Guangdong Province, China, Hoo moved to Jamaica with her family in the late 1950s, developing a liking for Jamaican fruitcake during her residence there. She helped tend a grocery store in Jamaica, Welcome Supermarket, with her husband, Hoo Shue, despite never learning English; she instead communicated in Hakka, a Han-Chinese dialect.
Reported to be an excellent cook, Hoo would often cook roasted chicken, fried rice, and Chinese-Jamaican dishes, including yam and pork, for her family. She had two children with her husband; her daughter eventually gave birth to eight children.
In the 1970s, Hoo moved to Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, with her children, her husband having predeceased her by several years then. In 1994, she moved into a nursing home in Scarborough, Ontario, as one of its first residents.
She was described as "quiet and reserved, but smiled a lot". She was also said to have indulged herself with fried chicken and caramel popcorn, reportedly never having a poor appetite or losing any weight while at the nursing home.
Confined to a wheelchair in her last few years owing to a hip injury, Hoo was eventually bedridden in her last few years, a condition described by her family as a "far cry" from her earlier years, during which she was described as strong and independent.
Hoo's last appearance in the media before her death was on 13 December 2006, when she was congratulated in light of her claimed 111th birthday. She eventually died on 5 January 2011, at the alleged age of 115 years, 18 days; her claimed age, if correct, would have made her the oldest living person when she died. However, even if her claim was accurate, there is a possibility of her having been 114 at the time of her death, owing to the East Asian method of age counting where babies' ages are considered to start at 1 instead of 0. At the time of the death, the world's oldest sufficiently validated supercentenarian was recognised as Eunice Sanborn of Texas, USA (20 July 1896 – 31 January 2011). However, this rank then is now retroactively held by Maria Gomes Valentim of Brazil (9 July 1896 – 21 June 2011), whose age was validated four months after Hoo's death.

27 August 2012

Besse Cooper, World's Oldest Person, Turns 116

Besse Brown Cooper, a resident of Monroe, Georgia, USA, turned 116 years of age on 26 August 2012, as the first person to do so in six years, after the 116th birthday of Elizabeth Bolden of Somerville, Tennessee, USA, on 15 August 2006. She is also the eighth undisputed person in world history to achieve this age.
Born in Sullivan County, Tennessee, USA, in 1896, Cooper worked as a teacher in her youth, beginning in 1917 when she was 19, before leaving the profession in her 30s.
Following her departure from the teaching profession, she had a total of four children, all of whom are still living, by her husband Luther Cooper. She was married for 39 years; Luther died in 1963, aged 68. It was reported that following his death, Cooper continued to live on her own until she was 105.
First recognised as the world's oldest person following the death of Eunice Sanborn of Texas, USA, on 31 January 2011, Cooper's title was supplanted in May the same year by Brazilian Maria Gomes Valentim, recognised that month as being 48 days older than Cooper. Valentim's death on 21 June 2011 passed the title back to Cooper, one she has held since, for more than one year to date.
On 24 August 2012, two days prior to Cooper's 116th birthday, a bridge in Between, Georgia, where she taught in her youth, was officially dedicated the Besse Cooper Bridge in her honour. Cooper did not attend the dedication ceremony in person that day, but relayed a message through her son, Sidney Cooper: "I'm glad I gave them a reason to name it."
Click for a report from Guinness World Records.

10 June 2012

Europe's Oldest Dies Aged 114

Marie-Thérèse Bardet, a supercentenarian from Pontchateau, France, has died as Europe's and France's oldest living resident. Bardet died in a nursing home in Pays de la Loire, western France, on 8 June 2012, aged 114 years, 6 days. Pictured above at her 114th birthday a week prior, Bardet was at the time of her death the world's sixth-oldest living person. Her death moves Mamie Rearden of Edgefield, South Carolina, United States, born 7 September 1898, into this position.
Born in Bretagne, France, on 2 June 1898 to an unknown father and an unmarried mother, she became the oldest living person in both Europe and France on 1 January 2012, an event that followed the death of Algeria-born Marcelle Narbonne at the age of 113 years and 282 days. Her death leaves 69 living supercentenarians validated by the Gerontology Research Group, consisting of 64 women and 5 men.
Bardet was the last living French person born in the 1800s, having outlived every known and validated French supercentenarian born in 1899. She was also Europe's last living person born in 1898. Her death leaves Paule Bronzini of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region as France's oldest living resident. Bronzini, aged 111 years 337 days at the time of Bardet's death, is the youngest person to become France's oldest resident since Anne Primout, who took the same title more than 10 years prior at the age of 111 years, 195 days on 18 April 2002.
Her death also passes the title of Europe's oldest living resident to Italian Maria Redaelli-Granoli, born on 3 April 1899. The world's oldest living European-born, however, is 115-year-old Dina Guerri-Manfredini, a native of Italy who is currently residing in Johnston, Iowa, United States. Manfredini, born on 4 April 1897, is also the second-oldest European emigrant ever, behind Denmark-born Christian Mortensen, who died in California, USA, in 1998 at the age of 115 years, 252 days.

28 May 2012

Janet Roberts

Janet Sheed Roberts, born Janet Sheed Gordon, was a British supercentenarian who was born in Craigellachie, Scotland, United Kingdom, on 13 August 1901.
Roberts, who studied law at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities in the 1920s as the only female in her law class, was also a hockey player in her youth, and at one time played against Eric Liddell, an athlete who would later gain fame as a champion at the Summer Olympics at Paris in 1924.
Roberts was known during her life as the granddaughter of William Grant, a businessman who in 1886 set up the Glenfiddich Distillery, the first-ever company to produce and sell a true single-malt whiskey.
Owing to her relationship with the company, bottles of wine were produced to mark her birthdays when she turned 100, 105, 107, and 110. One of the eleven bottles produced to commemorate Roberts' 110th birthday was sold the month before her death for £59,252 — setting the record for the highest price ever paid for a bottle of whiskey at auction.
While practising law at the firm then known as McGrigor Donald, she met Eric Lloyd Roberts, who would later become her husband and a director at William Grant and Son. The pair, who married in 1938, would later tour the world together, promoting the family business, despite Roberts never being directly involved in the company's running. Roberts' marriage would last for 42 years until her husband's death in 1980.
Roberts in 1990
Roberts, who named hard work, moderation, and laughter as the reasons for her longevity, cared for her mother and sister throughout her marriage, particularly as her mother aged, and was known to have a fondness for Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.
She became Scotland's oldest living resident on 3 September 2010 following the death of 111-year-old Annie Turnbull, the United Kingdom's oldest person. A year later, on 9 September 2011, Roberts would also become the oldest living person born in Scotland, upon the death of Jeannie Pattison, who died aged 110 years, 101 days.
Roberts died on 6 April 2012. It was in Strathspey, located in northern Scotland, that she passed away; Strathspey is is the present location of the Glenfiddich Distillery. She was then the sixth-oldest living Briton and the 64th-oldest validated living supercentenarian. At the time of her death, aged 110 years, 237 days, it was not immediately clear who had become the oldest living resident in Scotland, although it is currently believed to be Janette Brown of Edinburgh, born 12 September 1903, who was aged 108 years 207 days at the time of Roberts' death.

27 April 2012

Simone Lesage

Simone Lesage was a French centenarian who was born in Hauts-de-Seine department, France, on 7 October 1902, though she lived her last years in Aisne, France, having been a resident at the Saint-Georges retirement home since moving in on 16 May 1989 at 86 years of age.
A seamstress and hat-maker in her youth, Lesage was first featured in the media following her 105th birthday in October 2007. It was on that occasion that it was reported she still worked on hats for nothing in return, though the nursing home staff who received them preferred to preserve them instead of wearing them.
Lesage was said to have had a weakness for candy and chocolates, described in translation to be a "guilty pleasure" of hers.
She was reported on once more for her 108th birthday in 2010, an event that the nursing home staff, including its director, Raphaël Gayraud, was heavily involved in. She received various gifts on that occasion, including chocolates, flowers, angel statuettes, and even perfume from Chanel, a fashion company based in France. She was reported to still retain her taste for fine dresses, brought on by the work she had done in her youth. It was said that when she was happy, "her eyes would light up", but when she was unhappy with something, "it would show right away".
She was once more featured in the media on her 109th birthday, along with two other residents of her nursing home, who were also celebrating their birthdays that week. She was said to have put no effort into hiding her joy on that day, as she was "bombarded" with gifts, including a bottle of Chanel No. 5, Chanel's best-selling perfume.
Lesage on her 109th birthday
On that occasion, she took time to admire her gifts one after the other, selecting chocolates to taste and stroking the dresses she had received, assisted by her nurse, Christine Teissedre.
Gayraud also stated on that occasion that Lesage took no medication and was mostly healthy. Though she married sometime in her youth, she had neither children nor family. She was said to have compensated for this with the friends she made while at the nursing home.
She did not ordinarily speak in her last years, something that was attributed to her deteriorating hearing. Despite this, she was able to express herself in other ways, such as the way she shook the hands of those who came to see her.
Lesage died in the morning of 22 February 2012, aged 109 years, 138 days. Her death was said to have caused considerable emotion among the staff at her nursing home, several of whom were said to have been looking forward to celebrating her 110th birthday that October.

19 April 2012

Jiroemon Kimura, World's Oldest Man, Turns 115

The above image from Japanese television shows Jiroemon Kimura, a resident of Kyōtango, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, on his 115th birthday on 19 April 2012. He is the first male to achieve this age in over five years, and the third undisputed male to do so in history.
The world's oldest living man from 14 April 2011 following the death of Walter Breuning of Montana, United States, Kimura's 115th birthday comes half a month after that of Dina Manfredini of Iowa, United States, and marks the first time in six years there have been three living 115-year-olds together.
Kimura is currently the world's third-oldest living person, the world's oldest Asian, and Japan's oldest person, distinctions he has held since the passing of Chiyono Hasegawa of Saga, Japan, on 2 December 2011, aged 115 years, 12 days. Hasegawa, at her death, was ranked as the world's second-oldest living person, behind Besse Cooper of Georgia, United States, born 26 August 1896.
Kimura conversing with relatives on the occasion of his 115th birthday
Kimura is also the last living Asian born in 1897, and the only living male born in the 1800s. Following the death of Tanekichi Onishi of Hokkaidō, Japan, on 11 September 2011, Kimura is also currently the only living male supercentenarian in Japan.
Aged 113 years 360 days at the time of Breuning's death, he is the oldest man ever to assume the title of world's oldest living male, a distinction that had previously been held by Joan Riudavets-Moll of the Balearic Islands, Spain, who was aged 113 years 287 days when he became the world's oldest man in 2003.
Kimura also holds the distinction of being the oldest man ever to have fathered children in his life, as the only two men older than him in history never fathered any children during their lives. They were Christian Mortensen of California, United States, who died in 1998 aged 115 years 252 days, and Emiliano Mercado Del Toro of Isabela, Puerto Rico, who died in 2007 aged 115 years 156 days.
At his 114th birthday, Kimura was only the sixth male in history to achieve that age, and on that day, he mentioned to the media his survival of the 7.6-magnitude Kyoto earthquake in 1927.
He is the oldest man ever from Japan as of 26 October 2011, then having surpassed the final age of the previous titleholder, Yukichi Chuganji, who died aged 114 years, 189 days. Shigechiyo Izumi, however, was for over twenty years recognised as Japan's oldest man (and person) at the alleged age of 120 years 237 days, though his case was eventually called into question and subsequently rejected as of the 2012 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.
Kimura, who became the oldest living Japanese male on 19 June 2009 aged 112 years 61 days following the death of Tomoji Tanabe of Miyazaki Prefecture, cited small portions of food as the key to a long life.
A former postman and farmer, he is also the third-oldest known and undisputed Japanese person as of 11 April 2012. He had then surpassed the final age of 114 years 357 days achieved by the previous rank-holder, Kama Chinen, who died in Okinawa on 2 May 2010.
Click for a report on his birthday, and click on these links for video coverage of Kimura's 115th birthday.

05 April 2012

Dina Manfredini, World's Second-Oldest, Turns 115

Dina Guerri-Manfredini, a resident of Johnston, Iowa, and the world's second-oldest living person, turned 115 years of age on 4 April 2012.
Born Dina Guerri in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, to Italian-descent parents on 4 April 1897, Manfredini emigrated to the United States at 23 years of age with her husband, Riccardo Manfredini, also known there as Paul Manfredini.
Manfredini, who had at least one son, Dante Manfredini, became the world's second-oldest living person at 114 years 242 days on 2 December 2011, following the death of Chiyono Hasegawa of Saga, Japan, at the age of 115 years, 12 days. From 13 December 2011, she is also the oldest person ever born in Italy, having surpassed Venere Pizzinato-Papo of Veneto, Italy, who died on 2 August 2011, aged 114 years, 252 days. Consequently, she is the first Italian-born in history to reach age 115.
Manfredini, seen sitting behind her 115th-birthday cake
Manfredini is currently the only living female born in the year 1897, following the death of Oregonian Delma Kollar on 24 January 2012, aged 114 years, 85 days. She is one of two surviving people born in that year, with the other being Japanese male Jiroemon Kimura, who is 15 days younger than Manfredini and the world's oldest living man from the death of Walter Breuning on 14 April 2011.
Manfredini has been the oldest living person born in 1897 following the 29 March 2011 death of Shige Hirooka of Osaka, Japan. From 16 June 2011, she is also the oldest person ever born in 1897, then having surpassed Hirooka's final age of 114 years 72 days.
Manfredini, who lived on her own in a house until she was 110, is also the oldest ever person to live in Iowa state from 7 December 2011, though the title of oldest native Iowan remains with her predecessor, Neva Morris, who died on 6 April 2010, aged 114 years, 246 days.
Manfredini is the 26th person in history to reach 115, and the third person to do so in the past seven months. She is, however, the fourth person in the past seven months to be recognised by the Gerontology Research Group as having reached an age of at least 115; Mary Ann Rhodes, who was not validated by the group until 9 March 2012, was born in Ontario, Canada, on 12 August 1882, and died there on 3 March 1998, aged 115 years, 203 days. Click on these two links for confirmation of Manfredini's 115th birthday.

13 March 2012

Cirilla Zenari-Sgrignani

Cirilla Zenari-Sgrignani is a currently unvalidated Italian supercentenarian from Veneto region, born on 28 February 1902.
Zenari, who became Veneto's oldest resident five days before her 110th birthday on 23 February 2012 after the death of Stella Nardari-Vecchiato, the country's oldest resident, is also currently Italy's eleventh-oldest known resident as of 2 March 2012, following the death of 111-year-old Giovanni Ligato.
Zenari, who worked for several decades as a haberdasher (dealer in men's clothing and tailoring supplies), is known to her family as "Grandma Cirilla" or "Ocialeti".
Reported to have been a determined and tireless worker throughout her life, Zenari was said to have, according to a number of relatives, been a "feminist before her time", marrying her then-husband, Alberto Sgrignani, against their family's wishes. She had one daughter, Anna Maria, with him.
Zenari on her 105th birthday
At age 105, Zenari was visited by Paolo Zanotto, then Verona's mayor, and received a gift of flowers, as well as a plaque, from him. On that occasion, she was reported to have three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
She celebrated her 110th birthday with a glass of her favourite wine, Recioto di Soave, a passito (straw wine), produced in and around Verona, Veneto, Italy. The party took place at her retirement home, The Betulle: Casa de Soggiorno, or literally The Birches: House of Living. The party took place with her family and several Betulle staff. It was reported that for over ten years, the retirement home had become known as the home of the "Granny of Verona".
If validated, Zenari would at present be the 72nd-oldest living person, following the death of Émilienne Nacry of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, on 10 March 2012, aged 111 years, 0 days. She would also, at age 110 years, 14 days, be Italy's 104th-oldest ever person, one day ahead of Natalina Simoncini-Pistolesi of Tuscany, who died in January 2000.

Chris Amos and Gerontology Research Group correspondent Paolo Scarabaggio helped with the writing of this article.