Woman With Down Syndrome Defies All Odds… Celebrates Her 75th Birthday!

Frances Gillet, the oldest woman in the world with Down syndrome, just turned 75.

Untitled Terry Harris / GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY

She celebrated the milestone in style, with friends and family, at the Holly Cottage residential center in Ely, England. “From the era when she was born, to actually achieving this amazing age, it’s unbelievable, really,” said Holly Cottage manager Wayne Bent. “We just didn’t want it to be another birthday that comes and (goes). We wanted to make it a day to celebrate.”

Gillett was born on July 31, 1941 and at the time, she was not expected to live through her 20s. Although the life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically, at the time, those suffering from Down syndrome rarely reached their 30s. Gillett is remarkable even by today’s standards. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, the life expectancy of people with Down syndrome now is 60.

At 75, she is currently believed to be the oldest woman with Down syndrome. Her case is even more remarkable when you take into account that she’s recovered from tuberculosis and breast cancer during her life. She came through her mastectomy more vigorous than ever before. “When she came around from the anesthetic, she flung her arms in the air and wanted to give us all a big hug. Never really looked back from that day on, to be honest,” Brent told Today.

She came to the facility more than 20 years ago after her parents could no longer take care of her. Gillett’s father passed away and her mother started hearing voices. Bent says that she’s more of a family member there, than a resident. According to Guinness World Records, the oldest woman with Down Syndrome was an Illionis woman who lived to be 83 before dying from health complications brought on by a broken hip.

But since Down Syndrome symptoms vary in severity, Guinness no longer keeps track of the record. ”It is vital that Guinness World Records can standardize all of our record titles. As a disability or disease can differ from one individual to the next, and life expediencies are constantly changing with advancements in medical science, it is not possible for us to maintain a level of consistency in these medical records,” the organization said in a statement.

Even if she’s not the oldest, she is certainly one of the oldest person suffering with Down syndrome to still be alive. “She’s just an amazing person, and through her life, she’s always sort of touched people’s hearts really, in one way or another,” Bent said. “She really is quite an inspiration really. We’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of the last few years with her. We just hope we can give her a happy life as long as we can with her.”