World’s Oldest Woman With Down Syndrome Celebrates Her 75th Birthday

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Aug 10, 2016   |   12:01PM   |   Washington, DC

Frances Gillett has been defying doctor’s predictions for 75 years.

Gillett is believed to be the oldest woman with Down syndrome in the world. Born in 1941, Gillett recently celebrated her 75th birthday at her home in Cambridgeshire, England, according to The Daily Mail.

When she was born, the life expectancy for someone with Down syndrome was only about mid-20s. Gillett passed that mark many years ago, and went on to overcome battles with breast cancer and tuberculosis as well.

On July 31, she celebrated her 75th birthday surrounded by family and friends at the assisted living home where she lives, Ely News reports. The surprise party included cake, presents and cards.

Gillett lived with her parents until about 20 years ago when she moved into the facility, according to the report. Twelve years ago, she survived a battle with breast cancer, and two years later she fought through tuberculosis, the report states.

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“Frances is really and truly amazing, and over the years she has become more than a resident; she is like family,” said Wayne Bent, a co-owner of the assisted living facility. “Years ago, there was zero expectancy for someone with Down’s syndrome to live such a long life, so for her to celebrate her 75th birthday is wonderful.”

Her caregivers said she used to love to do needlework, but she doesn’t anymore because of her eyesight. She also enjoys listening to music.

The Down Syndrome Association issued a statement congratulating Gillett and wishing her a happy birthday.

“Thanks to medical advances and the care and love of those around them, the average life expectancy for people with Down syndrome is between 50 and 60 years, with a small number of people living into their seventies and beyond,” the association said.

It’s stories like Gillett’s that show how often society underestimates people with disabilities. When expecting parents learn that their unborn baby has a disability or genetic disorder like Down syndrome, they often face pressure to abort their child. Sometimes medical professionals paint dire pictures of their child suffering and facing discrimination from society.

The publicity surrounding Gillett’s life and others with disabilities are countering the fears and discrimination, though. These stories serve as an important reminder to society that every human being deserves to be respected and valued.