Jan 27, 2007

At 114, U.S. woman becomes world's oldest person

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Connecticut woman born to former slaves in the decades following the U.S. Civil War has become the world's oldest person, at 114, according to Guinness World Records.

Emma Faust Tillman, born near Greensboro, North Carolina, on November 22, 1892, became the world's oldest person on Wednesday, following the death of Emiliano Mercado del Toro, of Puerto Rico, Guinness said on its Web site.

Longevity is common in Tillman's family. Though none of her 23 siblings have matched her 114 years, three sisters and a brother lived past 100, her great-nephew John Stewart Jr., said on Thursday.

"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."'

Tillman, who lives in the Hartford, Connecticut, nursing home she moved to at the age of 110, was not available for an interview.

"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.

Karen Chadderton, administrator of the Riverside Health and Rehabilitation Center, where Tillman lives, 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.

"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."

According to the International Committee on Supercentenarians, there are currently 86 people aged 110 or older alive in the world today. Eighty of them are women.

The world's next-oldest resident is Japan's Yone Minagawa, born in 1893, according to the ICS. Guinness World Records said it is still investigating that claim.

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