By Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The world’s oldest living person, the daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of slaves, celebrated her 116th birthday on Monday in New York.
Susannah Mushatt Jones marked the occasion privately with family but a public celebration is planned for Tuesday, according to the Gerontology Research Group.
Jones 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, according to the Guinness World Records and the Vandalia Senior Center in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, where she lives.
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, according to Senior Center officials.
Jones has lost her eyesight and has difficulties hearing, said Robert Young, director of the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group’s Supercentenarian Research and Database Division.
She was the third of 11 children born to sharecroppers, and her grandparents were slaves, according to a book written about her by a family member, Young said.
The book, “Susannah Our Incredible 114-Year-Old Aunt,” said she is mostly African-American with some Native American ancestry, he said.
She never had children but has more than 100 nieces and nephews.
Of her husband, according to the nursing home, she says: “I don’t know what happened to him.”
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, Young said.
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 was Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at 122 years and 164 days, Young said.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Bill Trott)