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Secrets to a Long Life From the Oldest Living American Who Celebrated Her 115th Birthday

Living with her daughter in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, Jeralean Talley is the second-oldest person in the world and among a small group of supercentenarians worldwide.

Jeralean Talley turned 115 on Friday, May 23. She is the oldest living American and second-oldest person in the world. (Screenshot: WJBK Video)
Jeralean Talley turned 115 on Friday, May 23. She is the oldest living American and second-oldest person in the world. (Screenshot: WJBK Video)

By Beth Dalbey

When she was just a youngster at 104, Jeralean Talley was still hurling heavy bowling balls down the lane, regularly racking up scores of 200 or better as she flattened pins.

Last year, the Inkster, MI, woman went fishing and still had enough energy to dance. This week she celebrated her 115th birthday, making her the oldest living American and the second-oldest person in the world.

Though she had a doctor’s appointment, “I don’t feel sick,” Talley told The Detroit Free Press. The big party is Sunday at the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Inkster, where she’ll be in the presence of the source she credits for her good health and longevity.

“It’s all in the good Lord’s hands,” said Talley, who was born May 23, 1899, in Montrose, GA and moved to Michigan in 1935. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”

Talley is in a small club of supercentenarians – people who have lived 110 or more years. Only one in 5 million people in the U.S. ever achieve that milestone, according to experts with the Gerontology Research Group, which keeps a running count of the oldest people in the world.

Talley has lived parts of three centuries and her celebrity grows with each passing year. A CNN crew was in the Detroit suburb last week to interview Talley for a segment of “Anderson Cooper 360°” expected to air next week.

As Talley’s celebrity has grown, people reach out and ask her to impart wisdom. The key to longevity is as simple as remembering the Golden Rule she told, WJBK, Channel 2, last year.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” she said. “That’s my way of living.”

Talley, whose friends and family revere her with the honorary “Mother Talley,” explained the importance of the mantra with more depth:

“I want to treat everybody the way I want to be treated. If I give you any advice, that same advice comes back to me,” she said. “I don’t have much education, but what little sense I got, I try to use it.”

She has been married once, to Alfred Talley, who died in 1988. They had one daughter, Thelma Holloway, 76, who lives with her mother. Five generations of her family live nearby, including a 14-month-old great-great-grandson described as the light of her life.

“They understand each other,” Holloway told the Detroit Free Press. “That’s her heart.”

Talley still gets around under her own steam, with the assistance of a walker, and is in relatively good health. She was still dancing in April. She doesn’t hear or remember as well as she used to, and her knees occasionally hurt, but she attends church when she’s able, an important source of strength throughout her long life.

There are 74 people in the U.S. who are at least 111 years old, according to census data culled by the Gerontology Research Group, which estimates the number of supercentenarians worldwide at 300-450.

The world’s oldest living person?

Misao Okawa of Japan, who is 116.

Steve M May 27, 2014 at 03:40 PM
And regular check ups could help.
Fortified- I am Buzzlightyear >>>>>>>> May 27, 2014 at 05:38 PM
I already did that about 10-15 years ago
Lynnette Gilbert Zulli May 28, 2014 at 12:20 PM
George V. You might just want to listen to someone who's been here MUCH MUCH MUCH longer than the majority of us that still exhibits that RAW WISDOM ....perhaps she should've said "...HER SECRET ..." I for one am Blessed that she shared it with us.
mr magoo May 28, 2014 at 02:50 PM
Golden rule equates to a happy life with a lot of friends. Key! BBButtt: since others are throwing in secondary ideas - the 2 oldest people in the world live in Detroit and Japan. 2 biggest producers of automobiles in the world. Obviously if one were to maintain a collection of partially assembled autos they'd live longer SOOO I don't have to clean the garage! ha ha ha
Steve M May 29, 2014 at 04:36 AM
A lot of "good" friends helps. They haven't figured out if bad friends (frenemies) or no friends at all is better. The Golden rule certainly helps along with love for someone or something. But genes is the more accurate. Someone said; "If I knew I was gonna live this long, I would've taken better care of myself."

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