Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Oldest Person in the World

The oldest person in the world is now Emma Faust Tillman, 114 years, born near Greensboro, North Carolina, in November 22, 1892, after the death of Emiliano Mercado del Toro, at his home in Puerto Rico aged 115 years and 115-year-old Julie Winnifred Bertrand of Canada, last week.

Emma lives in Hartford, Connecticut. The woman and her parents were former slaves in the decades following the U.S. Civil War.

Guinness World Records has confirmed this. “Emma's family is characterized by longevity: Though none of her 23 siblings have matched her 114 years, three sisters and a brother lived past 100,” said her great-nephew John Stewart Jr.

Tillman graduated in 1909 as the only black student in her high

school and later worked as a cook, maid, party caterer and caretaker for children of several wealthy families.

She also worked as a household servant for the actress Katharine Hepburn. "At 114, she's lived a good, honorable, straight life," said Stewart, who is 76. "Her comment is always, 'If you want to know about longevity and why I lived so long, ask the man upstairs."

"Sometimes, she doesn't feel like talking," Stewart said. "But when you're 114, you can call your own shots."

“Tillman never smoked, drank or wore eyeglasses,” Stewart said. “Until a few months ago Tillman spent much of her time caring for an ailing roommate more than 20 years her junior, who has since died.” said Karen Chadderton, administrator of the Riverside Health and Rehabilitation Center, where Tillman lives.

"About a month ago, she started feeling less energetic," said Chadderton. "During the morning she has energy, she's up and about, in a wheelchair, but in the afternoon, once she goes to sleep, she doesn't want to be bothered."

The International Committee on Supercentenarians says there are at this moment 86 people aged 110 or older in the world today, out of which 80 are women. The world's next-oldest person is the Japanese Yone Minagawa, born in 1893. “Tillman is the youngest title holder in six years,” said Robert D Young, senior consultant for gerontology for Guinness World Records. “Her ascent to the top position was particularly speedy. The average time for a person to be the world's oldest was about eight months,” Young said.
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