Thelma Sutcliffe, Oldest Woman in U.S., Dies at 115. This Was the Secret to Her Long Life

Thelma Sutcliffe, who was the oldest living person in the U.S., died this week at the age of 115.

In her lifetime, she saw 20 different presidents elected, two world wars, women gaining the right the vote in the U.S., the 1930s depression, Charles Lindbergh's first solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, and many other key historical events.

Sutcliffe was born in 1906 in Nebraska, according to the Gerontology Research Group. She gained media attention in April last year when she became the oldest living U.S. citizen.

She passed away at an assisted living facility in Omaha, her nephew told CNN.

Sutcliffe's long-time friend Luella Mason previously told local news outlet the Omaha World-Herald that Sutcliffe didn't like to discuss her age, adding that her mind was still "very sharp" although her sight and hearing were fading.

Regarding Sutcliffe's longevity, Mason told the paper that "she doesn't believe in worrying at all," adding: "She always says, 'What good does it do to worry?'"

Mason also told CNN that Sutcliffe had partly credited her long life to not having children and never smoking.

Her passing comes just days after the death of Saturnino de la Fuente García of Spain, who was listed by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest man at 112.

As of January 20, 2022, the Gerontology Research Group lists Japanese woman Kane Tanaka as the oldest living person at 119 years old.

It says the oldest U.S. woman is Maria Branyas Morera, who is said to live in Spain. She is 114 years old.

A Study of Supercentenarians

In 2006, a study on the characteristics of 32 age-validated supercentenarians—people who live to be 110 years old or more—was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The study concluded that supercentenarians significantly delay or entirely escape vascular disease toward the end of their lives and that a "surprisingly substantial" proportion of these people only required minimal assistance.

Of those studied, only about 13 percent had a history involving a stroke. Some 25 percent had a history of cancer, but had all been cured. Osteoporosis and cataract history, however, were common.

The researchers involved in investigating the reasons behind extreme longevity have previously said that heredity is one of the main predictors, according to the BBC, suggesting a genetic lottery may be involved.

However, lifestyle is also a factor, Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine and geriatrics at Boston University, told the broadcaster.

"Most of what we think are age-associated problems are not due to aging itself but to the things we do to ourselves, like smoking, drinking too much or being overweight," he said at the time.

Elderly person
A file photo of someone holding the hand of an elderly person. Several people are currently over the age of 110. PIKSEL/Getty