Saturday, April 19, 2008

Indiana Woman, Oldest Known Person, Turns 115 on Sunday

Maybe it was a lifetime of chores on the family farm that accounts for Edna Parker's long life. Or maybe just good genes explain why the world's oldest known person will turn 115 on Sunday, defying staggering odds.

Only 75 living people — 64 women and 11 men — are 110 or older, according to the Gerontology Research Group of Inglewood, Calif., which verifies reports of extreme ages.

Scientists who study longevity hope Parker and others who live to 110 or beyond — they're called supercentenarians — can help solve the mystery of extreme longevity.

"We don't know why she's lived so long," said Don Parker, her 59-year-old grandson. "But she's never been a worrier and she's always been a thin person, so maybe that has something to do with it."

On Friday, Edna Parker laughed and smiled as relatives and guests released 115 balloons into sunny skies outside her nursing home. Dressed in pearls, a blue and white polka dot dress and new white shoes, she clutched a red rose during the festivities.

Only 75 living people — 64 women and 11 men — are 110 or older, according to the Gerontology Research Group of Inglewood, Calif., which verifies reports of extreme ages.

A widow since her husband, Earl, died in 1938 of a heart attack, Parker lived alone in their farmhouse until age 100, when she moved into her son Clifford's home. She cheated death a few months later.

Her room at the Heritage House Convalescent Center in Shelbyville, Ind., about 25 miles southeast of Indianapolis, is adorned with teddy bears and photos of her five grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great grandchildren. She's outlived her two sons, Clifford and Earl Jr.

Her two sisters also are deceased. Georgia lived to be 99, while her sister Opal was 88 when she died.

Parker's long-lived sisters are typical of other centenarians, according to Dr. Nir Barzilai, director of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's Institute for Aging Research in New York. Nearly all of them have a sister, mother or other relative who lived a long life, he said.

"Longevity is in the family history," Barzilai said.

He and other scientists have found several genetic mutations in centenarians that may play a role in either slowing the aging process or boosting resistance to age-related diseases.

Perls said the secret to a long life is now believed to be a mix of genetics and environmental factors such as health habits. He said his research on about 1,500 centenarians hints at another factor that may protect people from illnesses such as heart attacks and stroke — they appear not to dwell on stressful events.

"They seem to manage their stress better than the rest of us," he said.

My thoughts:

  1. Why does she have 5 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren & 13 great-great grandchildren & not one of them can seem to care for her so instead they put her in a nursing home??
  2. Where can I get some of these special genes?
  3. Do I really want special genes? Do I want to live that long?
  4. Does she give "How to live a stress free life" classes? If so, I am signing up TODAY!
  5. She's been a widow & living alone since 1938!!!! Is this how she stayed worry free???? How do you do that? Maybe my anti-socialism will pay off eventually.



mom/caryn said...

Yikes! 115 years old? I dunno.
I'm thinkin that I'd have been ready to join my hubby in the hereafter long before being away from him for 70 years. She's got to be a very patient lady! She's fortunate she can still hear well, see well, move about, chew her food, and make it to the flusher while she's still dry.

Maybe she needs more medical help and/or assistance than she could get in a home environment.

I don't have a lot of people in my family history that lived past their 70's and many close relatives, my dad and three of my grandparents, that didn't make it past 65. Being as how I'm already 66... living to be a centenarian is beginning to sound better to me.

Chandi said...

What do you mean your anti-social? Is this true? You didn't use to be.

I am not sure I would want to live that long. I guess it depends on how ready I felt to meet my maker.

I took a stress class once (it was an Enrichment thing). The guy taught that most people feel stressed because they live in the past or the future. They are worrying about something that is going to happen or did happen.