France's Sister Andre claims title of world's oldest person
France's Sister Andre turned 118 in February 2022 NICOLAS TUCAT AFP/File

A French nun who recently celebrated her 118th birthday with her traditional port-and-chocolate cocktail is now the world's oldest known person, following the death announced Monday of a Japanese woman one year her senior.

Lucile Randon, known as Sister Andre, was born in southern France on February 11, 1904, when World War I was still a decade away.

She now lives at a nursing home in Toulon along the Mediterranean coast, beginning every day with breakfast and then a morning mass, though her eyes can no longer see.

"She's happy, she likes very much this attention," said the home's communications director David Tavella, adding that a short press conference would be held Tuesday morning.

"But it's just another step, because her real goal is to overtake Jeanne Calment," a French woman who was reportedly 122-years-old when she died in 1997.

This year Sister Andre got a handwritten New Year's greeting from President Emmanuel Macron, 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," she 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.

She worked as a governess in Paris -- a period she once called the happiest time of her life -- before taking her religious vows with the Daughters of Charity.

Previously the person deemed the world's oldest by the International Database on Longevity (IDL) and Guinness World Records was Kane Tanaka, whose death in Japan on April 19 was announced Monday.

With her death, "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).

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 statistics institute Insee, with around 40 of them 110 or older.

© 2022 AFP