Woman Believed to be Oldest With Down Syndrome Turns 75

A woman in the UK is believed to be the oldest woman living with Down’s Syndrome by the staff at the residential home in which she resides. Holly Cottage, located in Ely, Cambridgeshire, is home to Frances Gillett, a woman born in 1941 when the life expectancy for someone with Down Syndrome was in the mid 20s, according to News.AM. Gillett just celebrated her 75th birthday on July 31.

Gillett’s niece and nephew and around 60 friends and staff members from Holly Cottage surprised her with an early birthday party on July 27, according to Cambs Times. The residential home’s manager Wayne Bent said, “It was an absolutely fantastic day. She had a wonderful time.” The party took place at the Little Downham Village Hall.

Gillett has lived at the home for 20 years. She resided with her parents in Soham before moving to Holly Cottage. She is a breast cancer survivor, having gone into remission twelve years ago to the surprise of her doctors. Ten years ago she battled tuberculosis for six months but beat that as well.

Gillett turning 75 let her take the title of oldest woman with Down’s Syndrome from Dollie Grissom of Oklahoma. Grissom was thought to be the oldest woman at 74.

However, Gillett is not the oldest person with Down’s Syndrome. When Joe Sanderson turned 80 in March 2016 he was believed to become the oldest person with the condition. Sanderson is from Cleveland, Lancashire.

A spokesperson from the Down’s Syndrome Association said that life expectancy for people with the genetic condition has increased to between 50 and 60 years of age “thanks to medical advances and the care and love of those around them…” However, only a small number of people like Gillett and Sanderson reach their 70s or older. “Everyone at the Down’s Syndrome Association wishes Frances a very happy birthday.”

According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 691 babies are born with the condition in the United States. This makes Down Syndrome the most common genetic condition in the country. Annually, around 6,000 babies are born with the condition in the US and about 775 are born in England and Wales.

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