Susannah Mushatt Jones, the world’s oldest person, died in New York City on Thursday at age 116, a research group based in Los Angeles said.
Robert Young, a senior consultant for Gerontology Research Group, said Jones died at a public housing facility for seniors in Brooklyn where she had lived for more than three decades. He said she had been ill for the past 10 days.
Jones’ death makes Emma Morano-Martinuzzi, a 116-year-old woman in Italy, the oldest living person, according to the group.
Jones was born in a small farm town near Montgomery in the state of Alabama in 1899. She was the daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of slaves.
She was one of 11 siblings and attended a special school for young black girls. When she graduated from high school in 1922, Jones worked full time helping family members pick crops. She left after a year to begin working as a nanny, heading north to New Jersey and eventually making her way to New York.
Jones, who retired in 1965, had said that lots of sleep is the secret to her longevity and that she had never smoked or drank alcohol.
“She adored kids,” Lois Judge said of her aunt in a 2015 interview with The Associated Press. Jones never had any children of her own and was married for only a few years.
Family members said last year that they credited her long life to love of family and generosity to others. Judge said at the time that she believed it helped that her aunt grew up on a rural farm, where she ate fresh fruits and vegetables that she picked herself.
Jones became Guinness World Records’ official oldest person when 117-year-old Misao Okawa died in Tokyo last year.
The oldest verified person was Jeanne Calment of France, who died in 1997 at 122 years and 164 days, the research group said.