Oldest American Celebrates 116th Birthday, Shares Longevity Secrets
Gertrude Weaver spent her birthday at home at Silver Oaks Health and Rehabilitation in Camden, about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock. This yearâ€™s festivities included the new award from the Gerontology Research Group, which analyzed U.S. Census records to determine that Weaver is the oldest living American, rather than 115-year-old Jeralean Talley, who was born in 1899.
The research group, which consults with the Guinness Book of World Records, found that the 1900 Census listed Weaver as 2 years old â€” putting her birthday in 1898, said Robert Young, the research groupâ€™s database administrator and senior consultant for Guinness.
That makes Weaver the second-oldest person in the world behind 116-year-old Misao Okawa of Japan and the 11th oldest person of all time, he said.
â€œNormally, 116 would be old enough to be the worldâ€™s oldest person,â€ Young said. â€œThereâ€™s kind of heavy competition at the moment.â€
Weaver was born in southwest Arkansas near the border with Texas, and was married in 1915. She and her husband had four children, all of whom have died except for a 93-year-old son. Along with Census records, the Gerontology Research Group used Weaverâ€™s 1915 marriage certificate, which listed her age as 17, to confirm her birth year, Young said.
Although no birth record exists for Weaver, she celebrates her birthday each year on July 4 and did the same this year. At her 115th birthday party last year, Weaver was â€œwaving and just eating it all up,â€ said Vicki Vaughan, the marketing and admissions director at Silver Oaks.
â€œMost people want to know, â€˜Well, can she talk?â€™â€ Vaughan said. â€œHer health is starting to decline a little bit this year â€” I can tell a difference from last year, but she still is up and gets out of the room and comes to all of her meals, comes to activities. Sheâ€™ll laugh and smile and clap.â€
Weaver first stayed at the Camden nursing home at the age of 104 after she suffered a broken hip, Vaughan said. But Weaver recovered after rehabilitation and moved back home with her granddaughter, before returning to the nursing home at the age of 109.
Weaver cited three factors for her longevity: â€œTrusting in the Lord, hard work and loving everybody.â€
â€œYou have to follow God. Donâ€™t follow anyone else,â€ she told the Camden News this week. â€œBe obedient and follow the laws and donâ€™t worry about anything. Iâ€™ve followed him for many, many years and I ainâ€™t tired.â€
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