South Bay Woman Celebrates 111th Birthday

Soledad Mejia Is Oldest Living Person In California

A South Bay woman turned 111 years old Friday, and researchers are studying her in an effort to find out the secrets of long life.

Soledad Mejia is the oldest living person in California and one of only 81 people in the world who are 110 years old or older, and on her birthday she wanted to sing.

Mejia once wanted to be an opera singer and at the age of 111, she's still sharp.

"There's nothing I forget. Everything is in my mind," she said.

Mejia has seven children, 24 grandchildren, 45 great-grand children and two great-great grandchildren.

"She's very loving. She likes to sing a lot and she's a very strong woman," said great-grandson Christian Lopez.

Doctors are fascinated with Mejia's life, and researchers from UCLA and Stanford have visited and took hair and blood samples.

"We need to know her secret," said Dr. Stephen Coles of the Gerontology Research Group. "We might be able to discover interventions and therapies to help ordinary people live longer."

Mejia doesn't know the secret to her long life.

"I'm pretty sure the praying is the one that does the most. She prays a lot before she goes to bed," said Lopez.

Mejia watches what she eats and has an occasional drink.

"She asks a lot for coffee. She's always asking for coffee. She likes coffee a lot," said Lopez.

Mejia grew up in Mexico and eventually married Juan Mejia in 1921, who died in 1955. She became a U.S. citizen at the age of 100.

"It's a blessing to have a great grandma like this," said Lopez.

Mejia has had health setbacks before, including a persistent infection on her leg that would not heal. That leg was recently amputated, but her general health is still good.