World’s Oldest Person Dies at 116; She Loved Lingerie, Bacon, and Children

By Giuliana Manca
Giuliana Manca
Giuliana Manca
May 13, 2016 Updated: May 13, 2016

Susannah Mushatt Jones, the world’s oldest person, has died in New York

Jones, who was aged 116 and 311 days, passed away at 8:26 p.m. EST on May 12, 2016 in Vandalia Avenue Houses—a senior public housing facility in Canarsie, Brooklyn where she’d lived since the age of 80.

Reports note that she had been ill for the 10 days prior to her death.

Robert Young, a senior consultant of the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) spoke with the Associated Press, saying she was “the very last American from the 1800s.”

Born on July 6, 1899, on a rural farm near Montgomery, Alabama, Jones was the third of 11 children and the oldest female. Her grandparents were slaves, her parents, Mary and Callie Mushatt, were sharecroppers.

In 1922, Jones graduated from Calhoun Colored School in Calhoun, Alabama. Jones was accepted to attend Alabama’s Tuskegee University, but her parents couldn’t afford the tuition.

Jones began working full-time picking cotton to help support her family. A year later, Jones left Alabama for New Jersey to work as a nanny and housekeeper.

She moved to New York in 1923. There, in addition to working as a live-in nanny, Jones helped organized a group of her fellow high school graduates—called the “Calhoun Club“—to help provide impoverished black children with financial aid for their college educations.   

Only briefly married in 1928, Jones never had any children of her own, but she adored them. She was known by loved ones as “Miss Susie” and by her over 100 nieces and nephews as “T,” short for “Aunty.”

Although she retired in 1965, Jones remained active. And despite losing her sight at the age of 100 to glaucoma, she served as a member of her housing complex’s tenant patrol until the age of 106. She voted for Barack Obama, twice.

The supercentenarian was blind and was hard of hearing, yet she was doing well right before her death; she was not bed-bound and only took two medications a day. Jones regularly clocked 10 hours of sleep per night.

Reasons for her longevity? In a 2005 press release from the New York City Housing Authority, Jones attributed her long life to her lifestyle: “I never drink or smoke. I surround myself with love and positive energy,” she said. “That’s the key to long life and happiness.” 

Yet, even for Jones, life was full of little luxuries. In 2014, she told Time magazine that every morning for breakfast, she ate four strips of bacon with scrambled eggs and grits.

“Sometimes, she’ll take the last strip, fold it in a napkin, put it in her pocket and save it for later,” said her niece Selbra Mushatt.

According to New York Magazine Jones, chewed Doublemint gum. 

Another vice of Jones’ was high-end lingerie. Selbra recounted one incident at a doctor’s office: “One time, when she had to get an EKG, the doctors and nurses were surprised to see her wearing that lingerie, and she said, ‘Oh sure, you can never get too old to wear fancy stuff.'”

Jones became the Guinness World Records’ official oldest person when 117-year-old Misao Okawa died in Toyko, Japan in April 2015.

The GRG works with the Guinness World Records’ officials to maintain the database of the Earth’s oldest humans. 

According to Young, the unofficial oldest person is now Emma Morano-Martinuzzi, of Verbania, Italy who was born on November 29, 1899.

FILE - In this Friday, June 26, 2015 photo, Emma Morano, 115, sits in her apartment in Verbania, Italy. At 115 years of age, Emma is now the oldest person in the world and is believed to be the last surviving person in the world who was born in the 1800s, coming into the world on Nov. 29, 1899. Thats just 4 and a half months after Susannah Mushatt Jones, who died Thursday in New York at the age of 116. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, File)
Emma Morano, 115, sits in her apartment in Verbania, Italy, June 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Giuliana Manca
Giuliana Manca