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Sunday, 16 June 2024

One of the oldest women in the world with Down’s syndrome celebrating life to the full

ELIZABETH Eastley, who is believed to be one of the oldest women in the world with Down’s syndrome, has described how she loves to go out shopping and spend time in her garden despite being wheelchair-bound and often non-verbal.

Elizabeth celebrated her 77th birthday last year by throwing a party for everyone in the care home where she lives in Bampton, Devon.

Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and characteristic physical features.

Kay Nicholls, the manager of Oak Tree House, where Elizabeth is supported by the learning disability charity, Hft said:

“When Elizabeth first joined us five years ago, we were worried that we would not be able to communicate with her or anticipate her needs.

“Although she was non-verbal, she made sure we had nothing to worry about as she soon began to communicate with staff, either noting what she wanted as a snack (usually Jelly Babies!) or joining in with the banter and keeping staff on their toes.

“It was lovely to hear Elizabeth start to talk, particularly as it was so unexpected.”

When Elizabeth was born in 1945, people with Down’s syndrome were only expected to live to their mid to late twenties so her family is very proud that she has defied the odds as she looks to her 78th birthday in November.

Elizabeth has five siblings ranging in age between 69 and 83. She left home when she was younger to live in care. This was quite some distance from the family and it meant a four-mile walk and many trains for Elizabeth’s parents to get there. Visits took the entire day and her brother Brian remembers his parents leaving very early and returning late into the night.

Brian remembers:

“This meant that visits could only take place a couple of times a year.”

Elizabeth moved into the Hft service from a shared living service after her support needs changed following a stroke and her diagnosis of kidney disease.

Despite her disabilities, Elizabeth loves spending time going out and about with Brian and his wife, Eve. She likes looking at photographs of her favourite people and spending time in the garden where she lives. She also loves flowers and Brian and Eve ensure she has a bouquet delivered by a local florist every month.

Prior to a decline in her health, Elizabeth loved to travel. She has been on a cruise and has travelled to Madeira and Turkey but now she spends her time with her friends at the service, going to church and participating in celebrations in the local community.

Kay said:

“She continues to surpass all expectations in spite of her health, enjoying life and the company of others around her. She is an absolute joy to support.”

Her support worker, Peter Harding, says that even though Elizabeth is often unable to talk, she is very expressive and has a great sense of humour, while one of her friends, Annie, describes her as beautiful.

Elizabeth is now looking forward to her 78th birthday in November and is already making plans for another party to celebrate.

The oldest woman living with Down’s Syndrome in the world is believed to be Frances Gillett, now 82.

According to the Down’s Syndrome Association, people with Down’s syndrome today are estimated to live until they are 50 to 60, with a small number of people living into their 70s.


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