Posted on Jan 10, 2023, 6 p.m.
According to the Gerontology Research Group, Bessie Hendricks was America’s oldest living person. The Supercentenarian has died after achieving an impressive 115 level-ups.
Hendricks passed on a few days ago at Shady Oaks Care Center in Lake City, Iowa. She was born in Calhoun County on November 7, 1907, grew up on a farm, married in 1930, and went on to raise 5 children, two of whom the longevity warrior managed to outlive.
She was a teacher, back when they taught in one-room schoolhouses, she also worked filling shells with gunpowder on an assembly line in an ammunition plant during WWII. She lived through almost 65 years of marriage, 5 children, 21 presidents, the roaring 20s, two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Spanish Influenza, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the Cold War, the dawn of the internet, and COVID-19.
5 years ago on her birthday, she had an interview with the Fort Dodge Messenger in which she revealed that her secret to a long and successful life is hard work, staying away from doctors, and not depriving herself of occasional sweets like a piece of pie or birthday cake. Her son commented that his mother loved her sweets. On her birthday in 2019, a care center administrator said that “A strong will and love of Family keep Bessie going. She appreciates life so much.“
Before she passed this SuperAger had indeed left her mark in time, she was blessed to be able to behold a long legacy of five children, nine grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren, and 42 great-great-grandchildren who will continue to carry on her lineage.
With the passing of Hendricks, this now makes Edie Ceccarelli who lives in California the oldest living person in America, according to the running tally maintained by the Gerontology Research Group in Los Angeles. Edie will turn 115 on February 5th, 2023.
Hendricks was not the first person from Iowa to hold the title of the oldest living person in America, as in 2012 Dina Manfredini of Johnston became the oldest person in America and the World at the age of 115. Manfredini shared the trait of hard work in common with Hendricks, working on an assembly line, cleaning houses, and shoveling her own driveway on bitter-cold winter days.
There appears to be an abundance of Centenarians living in Iowa, according to 2010 census data there were 53,364 people aged 100+ living in America, which is about 0.017% of the population. Of those Centenarians, 846 were recorded as living in Iowa, making up 0.028% of the state’s population. As for Supercentenarians ( aged 110+), Manfredini and Hendrick were two of 330 across the country, which is 0.6% of the Centenarian population. This is not surprisingly drawing the attention of researchers specializing in lifespan development and longevity.
Residents joke that it is because the state is frozen half of the year, making people tough, which is a quality that can help people live past 100. Indeed research does indicate that in order to reach 100 years old you must be resilient and robust in your personality in dealing with stress. But there are other factors that influence longevity which include but are not limited to genetics, environmental support, healthcare, lifestyle, and the ability to get outside to connect with nature, friends, and family.
Living past 100 is rare, and past 110 is even more so, living to 115 is exceptionally rare and really is a true testament to the fortitude, resilience, endurance, and outlook one has on life. With the advances made in recent decades lifespan is increasing, even so, living this long is still rare.
There is no magic pill that we are aware of, but there is a literal mountain of evidence suggesting that maintaining a healthful lifestyle increases your chances of having a long, happy, and healthy life, this includes but is not limited to getting enough sleep, keeping stress in check, being physical and socially active, and making healthy food choices. Unless the fabled fountain of youth is discovered, you need to put in some work, but the benefits are well worth the effort.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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