The oldest person in the world when today started was Eunice Sanborn at 114 years and 195 days, but BBC News is reporting, via the Daily Progress newspaper in Jacksonville, Texas, that she passed away this morning, yielding her title to Besse Cooper of Georgia, age 114 years and 158 days. But that honor seems like a terrifying thing to hold, considering how quick one’s reign may be. Ruminating on death — and, of course, long fulfilled lives — sent us on a trip to Wikipedia to figure out just how often the Oldest Person in the World dies. It’s about as often as you’d think!
Out of the last 10 to have the distinction, the longest title-holder lasted for one year and 105 days (Edna Parker of Indiana), while the shortest was Emma Tillman of Connecticut, who could only celebrate for four days before passing away herself.
Not counting Cooper, who ascended to the top today, the average length of the previous nine Oldest People is less than six months: 167.89 days, to be exact.
One more fun fact: 8 out of the last 10 “winners” have taken the crown at the age of 114, with the remaining two starting their short-lived glory at 115. So that’s about the best any of us can hope for, at least until we become three-quarters robot.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 31, 2011