At 110 years old, Beatrice Pruitt is the world’s newest supercentenarian but more importantly, she is “alert and sassy as ever” and still likes to dress up to party, her family said.
On May 22, Pruitt celebrated her milestone birthday at Golden Corral, where she demonstrated to family and friends that she still loves to eat.
“She ate so much that it amazed us,” granddaughter Twiyla Smith told the Daily Press. “She loved the chicken and the custom-made cookies with her initials and the number 110.”
At one point during her party, and for the first time, Pruitt kicked off her shoes in public and even walked to the bathroom shoeless, Smith said.
“I know people my age that take off their heels too so it’s not strange to see a 110-year-old do the same thing,” Smith said. “At her age, she has the freedom to do what she wants and she did.”
Pruitt’s newfound status of supercentenarian is a distinction usually held, at any given time, by about 1,000 people in the world, according to longevity experts.
Her family said that based on Pruitt’s health, they expect her to celebrate more birthdays and to create more memories with loved ones.
“She was a little fatigued and unusually tired on her birthday but I think it was because she was excited to see everyone,” Smith said. “Lately, her memory of her has diminished just a bit and her she has some aches and pain.”
Last year, Pruitt celebrated her 109th birthday at Mama Carpino’s Italian Restaurant in Apple Valley after being forced to stay home for her 108th birthday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, Pruitt sat on a lawn chair in her driveway where visitors delivered gifts, a large flower bouquet and plenty of loving salutations.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Pruitt kept busy by “doing what needed to be done around the house, such as cooking and cleaning,” she said.
After receiving a pacemaker in 2014, Pruitt continued to be active by doing housework, yard work and gardening — a few activities she attributes to her longevity.
Pruitt’s green thumb has produced onions, squash, watermelons, collard greens, figs, peaches, nectarines and other produce, Jimmie Smith said.
Pruitt told the Daily Press that her life has been filled with “many joys,” including the birth of her two daughters, seven grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.
Pruitt lives with Smith and her father, Jimmie Smith, 80. Also Smith’s older sister, Teria Smith Bryant, and her son, TJ Bryant.
Born in Hope
Pruitt was born in Hope, Arkansas on May 22, 1912, the same year the RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean and the Boston Red Sox opened Fenway Park.
“I still remember as a child, laying out at night and looking up at the sky,” Pruitt said. “The stars were so thick that I could see the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. It’s not like that anymore.”
Pruitt’s mother died when she was 7-years-old. Her father de ella remarried and blessed her with 12 siblings, Pruitt said.
“My older brother, Calvin Flenory, was a good brother who took care of us when we were children,” Pruitt said. “He joined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus sometime in the early 1920s.”
Pruitt believes that her “loving and serving” others is another reason for her longevity.
“When I was young, I’d walk across town to cook, wash and iron for people who were sick or needed help,” Pruitt said. “Whether they were white or black, I’d stay there all night to help before I went home.”
Pruitt admits that she’s never driven a car and never had the desire to learn.
“Not getting behind the wheel may be another reason why I’m still here,” Pruitt said. “Let someone else do the driving.”
Moving to California
In 1932, Pruitt relocated “out West” to Tipton, Oklahoma where she had two daughters, Mamie, who died several years ago, and Alberta, who resides in Santa Maria.
After living in Dallas, where she worked at a nursery school for nine years, Pruitt and her family moved to California in 1968, where she lived in various locations, including Santa Maria, Lynwood, and Cerritos.
Pruitt’s family finally moved to Hesperia in 2000 with her late daughter, Mamie Smith, and son-in-law Jimmie.
“My grandmother is a wonderful woman who continues to amaze us all,” Twyla Smith said. “It’s like she’s defying time.”
In her book “Breaking the Age Code,” aging expert Becca Levy interviewed supercentenarians and found several of their secrets to longevity, according to the Mindbodygreen website.
Positive age beliefs
Levy wrote that how you think about aging can determine how long you live. She cited several studies that found that those who took in more positive age beliefs had a median survival of 7.5 years longer than those who had taken more negative age beliefs.
Contribute to society.
One of the biggest myths about aging is that older individuals do not contribute to society, Levy said. “The motivation to contribute to society and help other people actually increases in later life, and selfish motivations tend to decline,” she says.
And giving back to the community, science shows, can affect longevity: Specifically, acts of kindness—dubbed the Mother Teresa effect—can boost immune response. “The idea of being generative, to feel needed, is a strength that goes up in later life,” says Levy.
Have a purpose.
“We know from a number of studies that people who find more purpose in later life have a long life span,” says Levy.
In terms of how you seek out your purpose, though, that’s up to you to decide. It depends on what you enjoy and what draws on your strengths, Levy said.
“It could be anything from writing poetry to joining an activist group to coming up with a new form of exercise,” Levy said. “So there’s a lot of different ways that you can add (purpose) to your life.”
Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz