World’s oldest woman celebrates her sweet 116th birthday


Besse Cooper is only eighth person ever to be certified that age by Guinness

By Scott Stump

She doesn’t look a day over 115.

Georgia woman Besse Cooper, the world’s oldest person, celebrated her 116th birthday on Sunday to become only the eighth person in the world and the fourth American to ever have been verified by Guinness World Records as having reached that age.

Cooper, who was born in Tennessee in 1896, was first certified as the world’s oldest person by Guinness in January 2011, but briefly had to give up her title for a few months when Guinness verified that Brazilian-born Maria Gomes Valentim was 48 days older. Valentim died on June 21, 2011, and Cooper was reinstated as the world’s oldest person.

Still, Cooper has seven more years to go to become the oldest person ever fully authenticated by Guinness. Jeanne Louis Calment from France lived to be 122 years and 164 days old before dying on Aug. 4, 1997, according to a Guinness spokesperson.

On her big day, Cooper was presented with a plaque by Guinness World Records senior consultant of gerontology Robert Young during her birthday festivities at her nursing home in Monroe, Ga. Her secret to longevity is simple.

“I mind my own business,’’ she said in a Guinness news release. “And I don’t eat junk food.’’

Married in 1924, Cooper had four children with her husband, Luther, and now has 12 grandchildren and more than a dozen great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.