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Buckles still has a ways to go before becoming world's oldest person

February 02, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • President Bush meets with World War I veteran Army Cpl. Frank Woodruff Buckles, 107, from Charles Town, W.Va., Thursday, March 6, 2008, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
Associated Press file photo

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Charles Town's Frank W. Buckles, America's last surviving World War I veteran, is only a "freshman" among the 85 people worldwide who have reached the age of 110 and beyond.

Buckles celebrated his 110th birthday Tuesday at Gap View Farm, his home outside Charles Town.

People who live to be 110 and older are referred to as "supercentenarians" by the Gerontology Research Group, the California-based nonprofit that tracks people who are still alive after a century and a decade.

Dr. L. Stephen Coles, executive director of Gerontology Research Group, said from his office in Los Angeles Wednesday that Buckles "will be a freshman. He's on the bottom of the list" of the supercentenarians.

Those who reach 111 years become sophomores, 112-year-olds are juniors, and those 113 and above are seniors, Coles said.

On Monday, Besse Cooper of Monroe, Ga., who is 114 years and five months old, acquired the title of the world's oldest living person when Eunice C. Sanborn died in Jacksonville, Tex., Coles said.

Cooper was born on Aug. 26, 1896, while Sanborn was born on July 20, 1896, according to GRG, whose members are physicians, scientists and engineers dedicated to slowing, possibly reversing human aging, according to Coles.

GRG's worldwide list of supercentenarians includes 80 women and five men, of which 21 women and one man are from the United States. Buckles isn't on it yet.

Coles said it will be three to four weeks before he has time to place Buckles' name on the list and public domain. The gerontology research project has been his hobby for the last 15 years, he said.

"I still have my own work to do."

There are more than 70,000 people in the United Sates who have reached 100-plus years, he said.

Coles said centenarians live to 110 and beyond "because they escape from conventional diseases like heart trouble, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's."

They don't get those diseases because of their genes. "Their DNA is inherited from their parents," he said.

It also helps if one is born female, what researchers call "the female advantage."

In 1997, Jeanne Clament of France had the longest confirmed life span in human history when she died at age 122, according to a story Wednesday on CNN.

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