Jeralean Talley, born May 23, 1899, in Montrose, Ga., is 113 and the oldest living American — and third-oldest person in the world.
Every morning, she drinks black coffee with a pinch of sugar. She doesn’t eat cheese because she dislikes it, and lives by the motto: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
“Her mind is good,” said her daughter, Thelma Holloway.
Talley lives in Inkster and became the oldest person living in the U.S. when Elsie Thompson of Florida died March 21 and moved up to the No. 3 spot in the world with the recent death of Maria Redaelli-Granoli of Italy, according to officials with the Gerontology Research Group, who verified her age.
“In this particular case, the 1900 Census was the defining factor for identification,” said Robert Young of the research group. “We checked the names of the parents and siblings to make sure it’s the correct person listed in the records.” The top two oldest, a man and woman, are in Japan.
When asked to what she credits such a long life, she lifted her arm and pointed to the sky.
“Don’t ask me,” she said. “Ask Him.”
What happens next is in God’s hands, she said.
Talley has exceeded the national average life expectancy of 78.7 years to reach the milestone of supercentenarian — a person who is 110 or older.
According to experts, roughly 1 in 5 million people living in the U.S. reaches supercentenarian status. Dr. Tom Perls, professor of medicine at Boston University and director of the New England Centenarian Study, credits not health-related behavior like exercise and smoking but genetics for such elongated lifetime.
Perls claimed evidence indicates it is not a few rare genes but rather of combination of many.
“Getting that right combination is what makes it rare,” he said. “It’s like winning the lottery.”