NEW YORK –– Susannah Mushatt Jones, the world’s oldest person, has died in New York, a Guinness World Records spokesman confirmed Friday. She was 116.
Jones, who attributed her longevity to sleep, clean living and positive energy, died at 8:26 p.m. Thursday after being ill and in and out of the hospital for ten days, said her niece, Dr Lavilla Watson. She died in her sleep.
Jones was the last American born in the 1800s, according to Robert Young, senior consultant for gerontology for Guinness World Records and director of the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group’s Supercentenarian Research and Database Division.
The presumptive oldest person in the world is Emma Morano of Italy, who was born on November 29, 1899, according to Young. The oldest man is Israel Kristal of Israel, who is 112.
Jones was born on July 6, 1899, in Lowndes County, Alabama, and her life spanned three centuries, according to Guinness World Records. Her father was a sharecropper who supported his family by picking cotton.
The Brooklyn, New York, woman lived through 20 American presidents, two world wars and the birth of the automobile, the airplane, TV and the Internet.
Guinness officially recognized Jones as the oldest recorded person on the planet last year after 116-year-old Jeralean Talley died in suburban Detroit. The oldest living person ever recorded was Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at 122.
Jones attended the Calhoun Colored School in Calhoun, Alabama, where Booker T. Washington was an original member of the school’s board of trustees, according to the New York City Housing Authority.
In 1923, Jones moved north to New York, where she worked as a live-in housekeeper and child-care provider.
Jones said she was determined to give the first-born girl in her family the gift of a college education. Despite her $50 weekly salary, she said she single-handedly put her first three nieces through college.
The third oldest of ten children, Jones had 100 nieces and nephews.
Jones had said she did not smoke or drink and cited loving relationships as a secret to her longevity.
“I surround myself with love and positive energy,” she told the New York City Housing Authority in 2005. “That’s the key to long life and happiness.”