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World’s oldest woman turns 115

August 26, 2011 - UNITED STATES

Besse Cooper, 114, from Georgia, the world's oldest person, turns 115 on Aug 26. The title became hers on Feb 2 at the death of Eunice Sanborn, 115, of Texas. A French woman holds the all-time record. Jeanne Calment died at 122 in 1997. Cooper had close competition. Walter Breuning of Montana, who died in April, would have turned 115 in September. The record begs the question of why some people live so long. Some experts credit longevity genes. At least one credits clean living.

Besse Cooper, 114, from Georgia, the world's oldest person, turns 115 on Aug 26.The title became hers on Feb 2 at the death of Eunice Sanborn, 115, of Texas. A French woman holds the all-time record. Jeanne Calment died at 122 in 1997. Cooper had close competition. Walter Breuning of Montana, who died in April,would have turned 115 in September. The record begs the question of why some people live so long. Some experts credit longevity genes. At least one credits clean living, and Cooper says it'shealthy eating.; In the Longevity Genes Project at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Nir Barzilai, M.D.and his team conducted genetic research on more than 500 healthy elderly people between the ages of 95 and 112&mdashand on their children. The studies have revealed at least three genes thought to promote longevity and evidence that it is highly likely to be inherited from generation to generation. Significantly elevated levels of HDL or 'good'; cholesterol is thought to play a role in avoid cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and high blood pressure. In a Sep 2010 interview with Der Spiegel, Dr. Barzilai noted that "super agers" are genetically in a class by themselves, since environmental and lifestyle factors do not appear to affect their longevity. Dr. Thomas Perls heads up the New England Centenarian Study, conducted out of the Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts. He studies how genes, lifestyle and health habits combine to allow some people to live 100 years or more. He observes that turning 115 is "incredibly rare," and notes that people who want to maximize potential longevity could be helped by living "like a Seventh-Day Adventist." Members of the sect eat moderately, are vegetarians, eschew drinking and smoking and manage stress more effectively than many of us -- perhaps, Perls said, because their emphasis on family and religion creates strong social networks and safety nets. "I mind my own business and I don't eat junk food," Cooper said at her 113th birthday celebration. She was born 16 Aug 1896, in Tennessee and moved to Georgia in the 1920s, marrying Luther Cooper in 1924. She was widowed in 1963. Cooper, a former school teacher, has four children, 12 grandchildren and many great- and great-great-grandchildren. Walter Breuning was born on Sept. 21, 1896, in Melrose, Minnesota, and moved to Montana in 1918, where he worked as a clerk for the Great Northern Railway for 50 years.

World's oldest person dies at 114. You probably won't live that long (LA Times 2 Feb 2011)

Georgia home to world's oldest person (AJC 1 Feb 2011)

In a Graying Population, Business Opportunity (NYT 5 Feb 2011)

Centenarian web

Gerentology Research Group

University of Chicago Center on Aging

Gerontological Society of America

Guinness World Records

Date written/update: 2011-08-26