March 16, 2009

Tibetan woman turns 118 — unofficially

Tibet's Arme Tsering celebrated her 118th birthday Monday, which, if it could be verified, would make her Earth's oldest human.

A smiling and mostly quiet Tsering wore traditional Tibetan garb while quietly sitting under an umbrella during a celebratory gathering in her courtyard in Lhasa, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

County and village officials joined reporters and others in wishing her good health, singing Happy Birthday in Mandarin and Tibetan, and eating cake.

Mom's health is deteriorating every day, said her daughter, Yangjen, 70. She has high blood pressure, asthma and chronic bronchitis. Her memory is fading and she rarely talks.

Tsering, who has lost her vision and hearing, was born March 16, 1891, in a small village in Ngari prefecture, local officials say.

She was able to walk around until about three years ago but now spends most of her time sitting or lying.

When asked about Tsering's secret of longevity, Yangjen said it was just tea, minced beef and zanba, a Tibetan food made of fried barley flour.

Plus a hot temper, maybe, she said. My mother was very outspoken and straightforward in her younger days. Sometimes she couldn't control her temper.

Village official Chen Jianlan said while the locals consider her among the oldest people in the world, she cannot apply for a listing in the Guinness World Record because the organization requires DNA testing.

There's no such testing center in Lhasa, and at her age, it's dangerous to travel too far, Chen said.

Officially, the world's oldest person is Gertrude Baines, 114, an American.