As Frances Gillett celebrates her 75 birthday Sunday in England, she is believed to be the oldest woman in the world with Down's syndrome. When she was born in 1941, the average life expectancy for someone with the genetic chromosomal disorder was mid-20s. She also a decade ago battled, and beat, breast cancer and tuberculosis.
Gillett, who lives in Ely, Cambridgeshire, celebrated her special birthday with a party with family and friends at the residential home in which she lives, reports the Daily Mail. She lived with her parents in nearby Soham until 20 years ago when she moved into the residential home.
It is believed Gillett assumed the Down-related designation from Dollie Grissom, 74, of Oklahoma, who previously was believed to be the oldest woman alive with the condition. The world's oldest man with Down's syndrome was Bert Holbrook, from Minnesota in America, who was 83 when he died in 2012. Joe Sanderson, from Cleveland, Lancashire, is thought to have become the oldest living man with Down's in March when he celebrated his 80th birthday.
"Frances is really and truly amazing, and over the years she has become more than a resident, she is like family," said Wayne Bent, part owner of her care home, Holly Cottage, where she lives, according to the Daily Mail.
"She used to love needlework, although her eyes are not so good now, and she loves music."
A spokesman for the Down's Syndrome Association said: "Thanks to medical advances and the care and love of those around them, the average life expectancy for people with Down's syndrome is between 50 and 60 years, with a small number of people living into their seventies and beyond.
"Everyone at the Down's Syndrome Association wishes Frances a very happy birthday."
On the Facebook page for the International Down's Syndrome Coalition, Vikki Look posted: "God's angels, I am blessed with a sister named Suzanne we call her Suzy Q she will be 55 in Aug. Truly the blessing is all ours she has taught us much and enriched our lives. Happy Birthday Frances! May God continue to bless you and keep you in His care."
Many other social media users are sending Gillett happy birthday wishes and posting pictures of their relatives or friends who also have Down's syndrome.