When the world’s oldest person, 116-year-old Jeralean Talley of suburban Detroit died this past Wednesday, the baton was handed to Brooklyn resident Susannah Mushatt Jones, the new world champion for longevity.
Born in Alabama in 1899, Jones, or “Miss Susie” as most of her acquaintances call her, moved to New York when she was 24 during the mayorship of John Hylan and riding the subway cost just 5 cents.
Jones was married, but the marriage was short-lived and she never had children. She does have more than 100 nephews and nieces, who lavish love on their aunt. Until 1965 when she retired, Jones worked as a child-care provider.
Reigning as the world’s oldest person is generally not a long-term honor. A Japanese woman, Misao was the world’s oldest person until her death in April at the age of 117. Then came Gertrude Weaver, who held the title in Arkansas for four days until she died at age 116. Next up was Talley, who turned 116 in May, but was forced to relinquish his position when he died last week. The second oldest person in the world is now Emma Morano-Martinuzzi of Italy, who is about 150 days younger than Miss Susie.
Jones attributes her long and relatively healthy life to refraining from smoking and drinking, although she does eat bacon and eggs for breakfast every day. About 15 years ago she lost her eyesight, and her hearing is less (quite a bit) than perfect. She also uses a wheelchair to get around. But until she turned 100 she was able to cook for herself, and let a relatively independent life.