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Born before Wright Brothers flew, world's oldest person dies at 114

From Eric Ferrell, CNN
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World's oldest person, 114, passes away
  • Eunice Sanborn was born in 1896, according to a gerontology group
  • An obituary in her hometown paper put her even older by a year
  • The gerontology group says of the 85 people 110 or older, 80 are women
  • The oldest person now is Besse Cooper of Georgia, at 114

(CNN) -- The world's oldest person, as verified by the Guinness Book of World Records, is dead at the age of 114, according to the Gerontology Research Group.

Eunice Sanborn of Jacksonville, Texas, died quietly in her home on Monday, the research group said.

Sanborn was born July 20, 1896, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which said it based her birth date and age conservatively on census records from the time. Her obituary in the Jacksonville Daily Progress had her even older, however, with the obituary citing a birth date of July 20, 1895.

Sanborn, who was 7 years old when the Wright Brothers made their famous first powered flight in 1903, outlived three husbands, according to the obituary. In her 90s and even beyond her 100th birthday, she would joke with men that she was scouting for her fourth, according to the Jacksonville, Texas, Daily Progress. Sanborn's only child, a daughter, died in 2005 at the age of 90, the newspaper said.

When Sanborn was born, the Civil War was history -- but just by 30 years. When she was 4 months old, William McKinley defeated William Jennings Bryan for the presidency of the United States.

The United States would enter World War I when she was 21, in 1917. By then she had been married for four years, according to Robert Young with the Gerontology Research Group.

Young, a senior claims researcher with the global Gerontology Research Group and a senior consultant for Guinness World Records, said Sanborn had one of three strong predictors of longevity on her side: she was born female. According to the GRG, there are 85 "supercentarians" in the world -- people with verified ages of 110 or older. Of those, 80 are women and only five are men. Young calls this the "female advantage."

Young offered two others predictors of a long life: a healthy body weight and a positive outlook. He referred to Jeanne Calment of France who, when she died in 1997 at the age of 122, had the longest confirmed life span in human history. He says reporters would ask her if she was concerned about the death of relatives and that she responded, "I can't do anything about it, so why worry?"

Young also told the story of when Calment broke her hip and was confined to bed just prior to her 115th birthday. When asked at her birthday party if she got bored, Young said Calment replied, "I think. I dream. I go over my life. I never get bored." She was soon back on her feet, he said.

Although some factors of long life lie within our control, L. Stephen Coles, GRG executive director, said much of what determines how long a person lives is programmed in the genes at birth. He noted that those with long lives tracked by his organization have relatives who have lived long lives, too.

"Even if you have everything going for you, if you don't have good genes from your parents then you won't be able to get to be a supercentenarian," he said.

With Sanborn's death, the "oldest living person" designation goes to Besse Cooper of Monroe, Georgia, according to the GRG. Like Sanborn, she was born in 1896, but after Sanborn.

On August 26, she will celebrate her 115th birthday.