Sixth oldest person in the world hails from Manchester

By GRETCHEN M. GROSKY
New Hampshire Union Leader
January 21. 2017 8:14PM
Sister Cecilia is the oldest living person born in America, the second-oldest living in Italy and the third oldest-living person in Europe. (Courtesy)

A Manchester native is defying the odds and has earned the title of the sixth-oldest person in the world.

Marie-Josephine Clarice Gaudette, a nun better known as Mother Cecilia, will celebrate her 115th birthday on March 25 at the Italian convent where she has lived since 1958. Gaudette is the oldest living person born in America, the second-oldest living in Italy and the third oldest living person in Europe.

She is classified as a "supercentenarian," a person who has lived beyond 110.

The Gerontology Research Group, which tracks and verifies the oldest people in the world, reports there are 45 living and certified supercentenarians worldwide with an average age of 113 years old. The group states on its website that the number is actually higher. Its researchers estimate there are 300 to 450 people in the world over the age 110 and 60 to 75 of them live in the United States. The group, however, has not verified their ages.

Boston University researchers began looking at this growing group in 2006. Stacy Anderson is a among those researchers involved with the New England Supercentenarian Study.

She said they have found that those who live beyond 110 are in relatively good health. They are divided into three groups - the survivors, the delayers and the escapers.

Survivors are those who had a major health issue, such as cancer, heart disease or dementia before the age of 80. Delayers are those who dealt with these conditions between the ages of 80 and 100. Those who never dealt with these conditions or didn't experience them until after age 100 are called the escapers.

Of the supercentenarians studied, Andersen said 70 percent were escapers.

"Avoiding these diseases helps them reach those extreme ages," she said.

Gaudette could not be reached for comment. She was interviewed extensively in 2008 at the age of 106 when she cast her absentee ballot for Barack Obama, her first presidential ballot since voting for Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. She was still a registered voter in Manchester but had trouble obtaining the absentee ballot because the online form did not go back to her birth year, 1902.

In 2002 she fought from Rome to keep the Villa Augustina School open in Goffstown. She was the first student at the Villa Augustina when it was founded by the Religious of Jesus and Mary as an all-girls boarding school in 1918. She would later become a teacher at the school, eventually entering the religious order. The school closed in 2014.

Silver Linings is a continuing Union Leader/Sunday News report focusing on the issues of New Hampshire's aging population and seeking out solutions. Union Leader reporter Gretchen Grosky would like to hear from readers about issues related to aging. She can be reached at ggrosky@unionleader.com or (603) 206-7739. See more at www.unionleader.com/aging.


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