Michigan’s oldest resident reveals her secrets to living to 111 years old
Life’s simple pleasures are the best for Canton resident Bonita Gibson, who at 111 years old is recognized as the oldest person in Michigan.
A resident of Canton’s Waltonwood Carriage Park senior living center, Gibson — who was born on July 4, 1911, the year before the Titanic sank — still enjoys a good game of bingo, servings of fried chicken and a daily dose of “The Price Is Right”.
She also loves coffee — but in moderation.
“My doctor tells me, ‘Please, Bonita, only drink one cup of coffee a day’,” she said, smiling. “And I try to mind him, you know.”
Gibson became the oldest known living person in Michigan on May 1, 2022, when Irene Dunham passed away at the age of 114.
She shrugs off her special distinction
What does she make of her current distinction? To be honest, not much.
“I don’t even think about it,” she said with a sincere tone. “It really doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m just happy to be as healthy as I am. Whenever the nurse comes in to check me, she tells me she can’t believe how good my (vitals) are.”
Gibson is believed to be the oldest person to ever survive a bout with COVID-19, which she was diagnosed with in 2021 at the age of 109. She also lived through the Spanish Flu, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide beginning in 1918 — and she outlasted a case of whooping cough as a child.
“Whether she admits it or not, Bonita is a celebrity around here,” said Angie Hanson, Waltonwood Carriage Park’s Executive Director. “Whenever we bring in new staff or prospective residents, we always tell them about Bonita, the oldest person in Michigan.
‘Bonita’s always so upbeat’
“Every time I talk to Bonita, she’s always so upbeat. She’s easy-going, fun-loving and I learn things from her all the time. I think those are traits that have helped her live such a long, full life.”
When Hanson asked the supercentenarian the secret to her long life, Gibson gave her a straight-forward answer.
“She told me she has a spoonful of molasses every day,” Hanson said, grinning.
Never a smoker or a drinker, Gibson said her simplistic diet during her younger years probably played a role in her longevity.
“We didn’t have a lot of money,” she said. “What money we did have, my aunt and uncle bought coffee and sugar. Everything we ate, we grew ourselves.
“Once a month, my uncle would go to town and buy oranges and bananas. My aunt would mix them together and that would be our dessert for three or four days.”
Retirement plan looked safe … for a while
Gibson revealed her and husband Kenneth developed what they thought was a pretty safe retirement plan.
“We had enough money saved up to last us until we were 90,” she said with a chuckle. “Well, I’ve outlived that plan by a little bit.”
To put Gibson’s amazing longevity in perspective, the average life expectancy in the United States in 2020 was 79.1 years — a milestone she passed in 1991.
And according to cdc.org, the number of people alive in 2015 who were 110 years old or older was somewhere between 150 and 600.
Gibson’s best advice for living to 100 and beyond?
“Don’t complain and learn to eat fruits and vegetables,” she said, her eyes sparkling behind her glasses.
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