A 118-year-old French nun called Sister Andre is now the oldest known person in the world, following the death of a Japanese woman one year her senior. Japan’s Kane Tanaka, deemed the world’s oldest by the International Database on Longevity (IDL) and Guinness World Records, died aged 119 on 25 April.
“Sister Andre indeed becomes the oldest, and by far, since the next oldest is a Polish woman who is 115,” said Laurent Toussaint, a computer scientist and amateur tracker for the IDL as well as the French Institute of demographic studies (INED).
The French nun Lucile Randon, better known as Sister Andre, was born in southern France on 11 February 1904, even before World War I, which was still a decade away. Sister Andre lives a happy life at a nursing home in Toulon along the Mediterranean coast.
“She’s happy, she likes this attention very much,” said the home’s communications director David Tavella, adding that a short press conference would be held Tuesday morning.
The French nun begins every day with breakfast and then a morning mass, though her eyes can no longer see.
“But it’s just another step because her real goal is to overtake Jeanne Calment,” the French woman who was reportedly 122-years-old when she died in 1997, Tavella said.
Sister Andre got a handwritten New Year’s greeting from President Emmanuel Macron this year, among the many letters and boxes of chocolates sent by well-wishers.
“I was always admired for my wisdom and intelligence, but now people could care less because I’m stubborn,” the French nun jokingly told an AFP in an interview for her 118th tour around the sun.
“I thinking of getting out of this business but they won’t let me,” she said.
Lucile Randon previously worked as a governess in Paris, a period she once noted as the happiest time of her life, before taking her religious vows with the Daughters of Charity.
Older than the French nun by a year
Born on 2 January 1903, Japan‘s Kane Tanaka loved playing the board game Othello and had a penchant for chocolate and fizzy drinks. She was certified by Guinness World Records as the oldest living person in 2019 when she was 116. In her media interactions, she would say she was still enjoying life and hoped to live until 120.
Remarkably, most centenarians are found in the world’s so-called blue zones, where people live longer than average, such as Okinawa in Japan or on the Italian island of Sardinia.
But France, while not considered a blue zone, nonetheless has 30,000 centenarians, according to the statistics institute Insee, with around 40 of them 110 or older.