The world’s oldest living person, the daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of slaves, celebrated her 116th birthday on Monday in the Brooklyn assisted living home she lives in.
Susannah Mushatt Jones marked the occasion privately with family but a public celebration is planned for Tuesday, according to the Gerontology Research Group.
Jones, one of only two people alive with birthdates in the 1800s, was born in Alabama in 1899 and, after graduating from high school, moved north in 1922 to New Jersey and then New York, where she worked as a housekeeper and childcare provider.
When she was born in 1899, there was not yet world war or penicillin, and electricity was still considered a marvel. The world has multiplied and changed drastically in her lifetime. She has seen war destroy landmarks and cities and has seen them rebuilt. She witnessed the Gilded Age, a term coined by Mark Twain, and the dawn of civil rights, the rise and fall of the fascists and Benito Mussolini, the first polio vaccines and the first black president of the United States.
Jones, who retired in 1965, says lots of sleep is the secret to her longevity, Guinness said in confirming her status as the oldest living person. She also said she never smoked or drank.
The book, “Susannah Our Incredible 114-Year-Old Aunt,” said she is mostly African-American with some Native American ancestry.
She never had children but has more than 100 nieces and nephews.
Of her husband, from whom she was divorced about 75 years ago, she says: “I don’t know what happened to him.”
She sticks to a strict daily routine: Every morning she wakes up around 9 a.m., takes a bath and then eats a hearty breakfast. On a recent day, Jones said little, but family members said she spends her days reflecting on her life and embracing what’s left of it — one day at a time. Her living room walls are adorned with family photos and birthday cards made by children in the community.
“Hey, Tee,” Jones’ niece, Lois Judge, said to her aunt using a family nickname, “How old are you?”
“I don’t know,” the frail Jones responded.
Jones, who wears a yellow turban on her head and a nightgown most days, watches the world from a small recliner. Posters from past birthday parties, letters from local elected officials and a note from President Barack Obama fill the surfaces.
Family members say there is no medical reason for her long life, crediting it to her love of family and generosity to others. Despite her age, she only sees a doctor once every four months and takes medication for high blood pressure and a multivitamin every day. Aside from that, she has had a clean bill of health for years, Judge said.
Jones inherited the title of world’s oldest living person after the June 17 death of Jeralean Talley, who was 116, in Michigan. She is the third consecutive American to hold the title of world’s oldest person.
The world’s second oldest person is Emma Morano-Martinuzzi, a 115-year-old woman living in Italy, according to the Gerontology Research Group.
The oldest verified person in modern history was Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at 122 years and 164 days.