LOS ANGELES – On her first day as the oldest person on Earth, 114-year-old Gertrude Baines spent Saturday resting under the covers in her pajamas – unfazed, and most likely unaware of her new world status.
“She has a little cold,” said her social worker, Linda Bell, after making her morning rounds at Western Convalescent Hospital. “I don’t think anyone has told her the news, and she hasn’t mentioned it all day.”
Baines, of Los Angeles, awoke to her usual breakfast gripe: Her bacon wasn’t crispy enough. Her TV cast a glow inside her room as she rested.
Outside, the Internet was abuzz, announcing the news. The death of 115-year-old Maria de Jesus in Portugal on Friday made Baines the oldest, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which validates claims of extreme old age.
By 10 a.m., the convalescent hospital staff had turned away nearly a dozen calls from reporters requesting interviews with Baines. But workers proudly discussed their most distinguished resident.
“We are very happy she has lived this long,” Bell said. “She’s a very nice, sweet lady. And sometimes, just like you and me, she doesn’t want to be bothered.”
Two months ago, Baines made national headlines as the oldest African-American to cast a ballot in the U.S. election. A video shows the daughter of former slaves sitting in her wheelchair wearing a red bonnet and a fuzzy scarf as she voted for Barack Obama.
“That’s the first one I know to be in there,” she told the Los Angeles Times of her preferred candidate. “Everybody’s glad for colored men to be in there sometime.”
At the time, Baines was the third-oldest person in the world; Edna Parker of Indiana, who was 115, was in the top spot, followed by De Jesus.
Four months shy of blowing out her next batch of birthday candles, Baines has outlived everyone in her family, including her daughter, who died of typhoid at 18. She lived alone with the help of a caretaker until she turned 107.
Asked in April how she had made it so far, she said: “Ask the Lord. I depend on him.”