Besse Cooper, officially the world’s oldest person, died peacefully at age 116 in Georgia on Tuesday.
Sidney Cooper said his mother died at her nursing home after contracting a stomach virus over the weekend. After having difficulty breathing, she was put on oxygen and then quietly passed away in the afternoon.
“I mind my own business and I don’t eat junk food,” Cooper told the Atlanta Journal Constitution in a 2009 interview about her remarkable longevity.
Born in Tennessee on Aug. 26, 1896, Cooper moved to Georgia during World War I to pursue a teaching career. That’s where she married her husband Luther in 1924.
According to the Gerontology Research Group, Dina Manfredini of Iowa is now the world’s oldest woman at 115 years of age.
Despite her longevity, Cooper is only the eighth oldest person ever, according to the GRG, with France’s Jeanne Calment holding the record for the longest life at 122 years.
Of the 10 oldest people to ever live, six were Americans, nine of whom were woman, with the oldest man, Christian Mortensen, a Danish-immigrant to the United States, rounding out the list at number 10, having died in California in 1998 at 115 years of age.
On average, woman live longer than men by five to 10 years in industrialized nations, with 85 percent of centenarians – those 100 or older -- being woman according to the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University. A supercentenarian is one who has reached 110 years.
Life expectancy varies considerably between countries, with people living in tropical regions being more likely to die seven years sooner than those living in other parts of the world, according to a 2010 “State of the Tropics” study.
According to the United Nations, Japan consistently has one of the highest life expectancy rates, with men on average living 80 years and women living 87 years. In comparison, the African country of Sierra Leone has one of the lowest life expectancies, with the average woman living 49 years and average man living 48 years.
In the same study, the United States rounds out the top 20 nations with women living on average to 81 years of age, and men to 78 years of age.
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