Lucile Randon, the oldest person in the world, dies at 118

Randon, who became a nun in 1944, said work and caring for others were the main reasons for her longevity.

Lucile Randon who became a nun in 1944 and has died at the age of 118. She is wearing a nun's habit in blue and has her hands clasped together.
Lucile Randon, who became Sister Andre when she joined an order of nuns, died in her sleep [File: Nicolas Tucat/AFP]

The oldest person in the world, French nun Lucile Randon, has died at the age of 118.

Randon, who took the name of Sister Andre when she became a nun in 1944, died in her sleep on Tuesday at the nursing home where she lived.

“There is great sadness but … it was her desire to join her beloved brother. For her, it’s a liberation,” spokesperson David Tavella, of the Sainte-Catherine-Laboure nursing home in the southern French town of Toulon, told the AFP news agency.

Randon was born on February 11, 1904, and was the world’s oldest living person according to the Gerontology Research Group’s (GRG) World Supercentenarian Rankings List.

Long recognised as the oldest person in Europe, she became the world’s oldest following the death of Japan’s Kane Tanaka at 119 last year. Guinness World Records officially acknowledged her status in April 2022.

Randon was born in the year New York opened its first subway, and World War I was still a decade away.

She grew up in a Protestant family as the only girl among three brothers, living in the southern town of Ales, France.

One of her fondest memories was the return of two of her brothers at the end of the war in 1918, she told AFP in an interview on her 116th birthday.

“It was rare, in families, there were usually two dead rather than two alive. They both came back,” she said.

Randon worked as a governess in Paris — a period she once called the happiest time of her life — for the children of wealthy families.

She became a Catholic and was baptised at the age of 26.

Driven by a desire to “go further”, she joined the Daughters of Charity order of nuns when she was 41.

Sister Andre was then assigned to a hospital in Vichy, France, where she worked for 31 years.

In later life, she moved to Toulon along the Mediterranean coast.

Her days in the nursing home were punctuated by prayer, mealtimes and visits from residents and hospice workers.

She also received a steady flow of letters, almost all of which she responded to.

In 2021, she survived a bout of COVID-19.

‘Work kept me alive’

Randon told reporters last year that her work and caring for others had kept her spry.

“People say that work kills, for me work kept me alive, I kept working until I was 108,” she told reporters in April last year in the tearoom of the home.

Although she was blind and needed a wheelchair, she used to care for other elderly people much younger than herself.

“People should help each other and love each other instead of hating. If we shared all that, things would be a lot better,” she said at the same meeting with journalists.

It is likely that France’s new oldest person is now 112-year-old Marie-Rose Tessier, a woman from Vendee, longevity expert Laurent Toussaint told AFP.

But Toussaint warned that it was always possible an even older person had not yet made themselves known.

Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122 in Arles, southern France, holds the record for the oldest confirmed age reached by any human.

Source: News Agencies