Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper

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Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper
Van andel 113 large.jpg
Henny van Andel on her 113th birthday
Born 29 June 1890
Smilde, Drenthe
Died 30 August 2005
(aged 115 years 62 days)
Hoogeveen, Drenthe
Known for Supercentenarian
Spouse(s) Dick van Andel
(lived: 1889–1959,
married: 1939–1959)

Hendrikje "Henny" van Andel-Schipper (née Schipper) (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɦɛndrɪkjə vɑn ˈɑndəl ˈsxɪpər]) (29 June 1890 – 30 August 2005) was the oldest person ever in the history of the Netherlands (breaking the previous record of Catharina van Dam on 26 September 2003), and from 29 May 2004 was thought to be the oldest recognized person in the world until her death (although her case was later superseded by María Capovilla of Ecuador). She became the oldest living person in the Netherlands on 16 February 2001, at the age of 110 years 232 days.


Van Andel-Schipper was born as Hendrikje Schipper in Smilde, a small village in Drenthe. She was born prematurely and there were doubts that she would survive. However, thanks to the continuous care of her grandmother during her first four weeks, she recovered. At the age of five on her first day of school, she was sick again and was removed from the school on advice of a local doctor. Her father, who was head of the local school, taught her to read and write.

She had a love of theatre from a young age, but after her mother objected she decided not to pursue a career in acting and became a needlework teacher instead.

At the age of 46, she met her future husband Dick van Andel, who worked in Amsterdam. She left her parents' home at the age of 47 and married Van Andel, a divorced tax inspector, in 1939, taking the hyphenated name of Van Andel-Schipper (which is customary in the Netherlands). During the Second World War, she and her husband moved to Hoogeveen, where she had to sell jewellery to help pay for food during the German occupation. Her husband died from cancer in 1959. She underwent a mastectomy in 1990 after being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 100. She continued to live on her own before moving into a retirement home at the age of 105.

She became the oldest recognized woman in Europe on the death of Maria Teresa Fumarola Ligorio in May 2003, and the oldest recognized person in Europe on the death of Joan Riudavets in March 2004. The death of Charlotte Benkner in early May 2004 left her second-oldest recognized in the world behind Ramona Trinidad Iglesias-Jordan, whose death later that month left her apparently the world's oldest at 113 years 335 days. María Esther de Capovilla from Ecuador was older, but her claim had not yet been verified.

For her 115th birthday in 2005, she received a visit from the daughter-in-law of the Queen of the Netherlands and a delegation from the Ajax football club. The last time the Ajax team visited her she complained that the other residents of her nursing home were "hicks who don't understand football". She had been a fan of the football club Ajax Amsterdam since she attended a match more than 80 years earlier.[1]


She died peacefully in her sleep on 30 August 2005, 2 months after her 115th birthday. She had remained mentally alert up until her death, but suffered from increasing frailty. Several days prior to her death she told the director of her nursing home, Johan Beijering, that "It's been nice, but the man upstairs says it's time to go". She agreed to leave her body to science when she was 82. An autopsy at the University of Groningen revealed that she died of undetected gastric cancer, the tumor in her stomach being the size of a small fist.[2] It was malignant and would likely have killed a far younger person. Following her death, Elizabeth Bolden became the world's oldest living person.

Post-mortem brain analysis[edit]

In June 2008, Gert Holstege, a professor at the University of Groningen, said following a post-mortem analysis of Van Andel-Schipper's brain that there was little indication of the kinds of problems in the brain, some related to Alzheimer's disease, that are normally found in individuals who survive to extreme ages. According to Holstege, hers was the first known brain of such an advanced age "that did not have these problems".[3]

Status as "world's oldest person"[edit]

On 9 December 2005, Guinness World Records recognized the claim of then 116-year-old María Capovilla of Ecuador to be the world's oldest person, supplanting Van Andel-Schipper from the revised title, she became thought to become the world's oldest living person on 29 May 2004 upon the death of Ramona Trinidad Iglesias-Jordan, she would have become the world's oldest living person at the age of 113 years, 335 days.[4]


Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper had stated that the secret to her longevity was a serving of herring every day and drinking orange juice. She later jokingly added "breathing." On another occasion, she gave the following advice: "Don't smoke and don't drink too much alcohol. Just a small advocaat with cream on Sundays and holidays. And you must remain active."[1]


The complete genome of Van Andel-Schipper has been analysed by the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, who are researching longevity genes.[5] Her autopsy showed no traces of dementia, which some scientists had considered an inevitable part of aging.[1]

A study[6] published in Genome Research suggests the key to Van Andel-Schipper's longevity may lie in her stem cells, which fight off infection. Her system was superior for repairing or getting rid of cells with dangerous mutations.[1]

The author of the study suggested personality may also have something to do with longevity as well: People who live past 100 tend to have forgiveness as a common character trait. They tend to focus on something positive when something bad happens.[1]

See also[edit]


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