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Waseca man oldest with Down syndrome
Bert Holbrook is 80 years old
by Brian Ojanpa Free Press Staff Writer
Bert Holbrook possesses a medley of idiosyncrasies.
He loves to color with crayons, fusses about his appearance, and is given to flights of fancy.
“This morning he said he was golfing last night,” says one of aides, Laura Radloff.
The 80-year-old Holbrook lives in a Waseca group home with seven other mentally challenged adults, yet owns a distinction that separates him from anyone else on the planet.
He’s believed to be the world’s oldest living person with Down syndrome.
His nurse, Pat Foley, has been working with the Guiness Book of World Records people and expects confirmation to arrive any day.
The previous oldest Down syndrome man on record, Peter Davison of Great Britain, died last year at 68.
The oldest Down syndrome woman, unofficially, is 74-year-old Mary Perry, who lives in Tennessee.
Though longevities of those with Down syndrome have increased dramatically due to better health care (average lifespan was nine years in 1929), lifespans generally don’t exceed 55.
Down syndrome is a set of mental and physical symptoms resulting from a chromosomal disorder with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
The disorder occurs in one in 800 births, and some with Down syndrome are so mildly affected that they can live independently and hold jobs.
Foley, who has worked with Holbrook for 18 years, says the Waseca native was diagnosed as mildly retarded when he was younger, then as severely retarded after the onset of dementia in his later years.
Even so, Holbrook maintains a camaraderie with caregivers that includes impish pinches to posteriors.
On a recent day, he clearly enjoyed playing a game of spongeball catch with aide Melissa Stoltz, never mind that the tosses never traveled more than 2 feet.
Holbrook speaks in a manner only his caregivers can decipher.
He has no kin in the area.