England's oldest woman dies - just hours after world's oldest

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The Independent Online

Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, from the Netherlands, died peacefully in her sleep aged 115 at a home for the elderly in Amsterdam. She was born on 29 June 1890 and had held the record since May 2004.

Henny, as she was known to her friends and family, was a life-long Ajax football fan. She attributed her longevity to a diet of pickled herring and urged all those who wanted to emulate her achievement to "keep breathing".

Mrs van Andel-Schipper, whose husband, Dick, died in 1959, was described as "very clear mentally" by the home's director, Johan Beijering. "She said 'It's been nice, but the man upstairs says it's time to go'," he said. She had no children and her closest living relative was a nephew who lives in Spain.

A few hours after news of Mrs van Andel-Schipper's demise emerged, it was confirmed Florence Reeves, England's oldest woman, had died at a nursing home at Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Sunday. Her death, aged 111, was announced by her MP, David Amess.

Mrs Reeves was born on 17 February 1894, when William Gladstone was in the last month of his premiership. She was a senior civil servant and lifelong Conservative who first become involved in politics with the suffragette movement. She saw a further 21 prime ministers enter Downing Street and lived under five monarchs.

She outlived her husband by 30 years and one of her two daughters died before she did. During the First World War she worked at the War Office on Morse code transmissions of classified material.

She suffered from deafness and failing sight, but she had lived alone at her bungalow, built by her late husband, until last May.

Fay Evans, a Tory member of Southend council, who was Mrs Reeves's closest friend in the last years of her life, said: "She was as sharp as a tack, and a very special lady ... Her brain power was undiminished."

According to Guinness World Records, Britain's oldest person is Lucy Victoria d'Abreu, born in India in 1892. She now lives in Stirling, Scotland, and claims her longevity is down to a "customary sun-downer of brandy and ginger ale".

The world's official oldest person is now an American woman, Elizabeth Bolden, 115, of Tennessee. The oldest man is Emiliano Mercado del Toro, 114, of Puerto Rico.