When expectant parents learn their child will be born with Down syndrome, many grow concerned about their child’s health and the way they will be perceived by society. They also know the average lifespan of a person with Down syndrome is approximately 60 years. This might seem discouraging, but sometimes, people surprise even medical professionals.
Just ask Kenny Cridge, who celebrated his 79th birthday on February 15, 2019. This birthday might not seem significant to most people, but it was a milestone achievement for Cridge, who had Down syndrome. He held the Guinness Book World Record as the world’s oldest man with Down syndrome. What was the secret to his long life? Happiness.
Short Life Expectancy
When Cridge was born with Down syndrome on February 15, 1940 in Somerset, United Kingdom, his parents were told he would only live to be 12 years old. In 1940, doctors and medical professionals didn’t have the proper devices and knowledge to fully understand the syndrome. By 1983, the life expectancy rate increased to 25 years. But in 2019, the rate is now approximately 60 years old, due to the end of the inhumane practice of institutionalizing Down syndrome patients.
Growing up with Down syndrome, Cridge was treated with as much love and respect as any child could receive. With his twin sister, Dorothy, Cridge would run around the neighborhood and offer affection to anyone he met. His father, Samuel, adored his son and had a motorbike with a sidecar. Cridge would sit in the sidecar and ride with his father to local restaurants and other events in town. Just because Cridge had Down syndrome didn’t mean he missed out on any fun.
Exceeding The Life Expectancy
Since his childhood, Cridge experienced many changes. He lived with his mother, Iris, in Hinton St. George, Somerset, until her death. Then, he moved in with his nephew, Kevin Griffiths, before finally moving into Wisteria House, a care home where he lived quietly for seven years until his death on April 16, 2019—two months after his milestone birthday.
“He has maintained general good health with no significant changes,” said Ann Nicholson, manager at Wisteria House, at the time of his 79th birthday. “Kenny can brighten anyone’s day with his smile and his laughter. He’s very affectionate and loves having kisses and cuddles. He’s one in a million and we are so lucky to have him in our lives.” There was never too much love for Cridge.
In his impressive old age, Cridge loved to play the harmonica, eat delicious sweet treats, and joke with his fellow residents. Everyone remembers Cridge, even people who grew up with him but hadn’t seen him in years, according to his niece, Marie Shotton. She adds, “Now people with Down syndrome are treated equally and respected.”
Celebrating His Big Day
On February 15, 2019, Cridge celebrated his 79th birthday at Wisteria House, surrounded by his devoted caregivers and beloved family members and friends. The special birthday party included balloons, gifts, and (of course) a delicious birthday cake Cridge happily devoured. The birthday boy was surprised but delighted to celebrate a day with the people he loved most.
But Cridge wasn’t the only person to surpass the life expectancy rate for Down syndrome patients. In 2012, Bert Holbrook from Minnesota passed away at 83 years old. Georgie Wildgust from Nottingham, UK celebrated his 77th birthday on August 16, 2019. Dollie Grissom, 79, from Oklahoma is believed to be the oldest surviving woman with Down syndrome.
“He was always told by his mum that he can do anything and because of that, he has always been very independent,” said Wildgust’s care assistant, Javine Lacey. “He doesn’t like being told what to do really, but I do think that is why he has reached 77.” We could all learn a lesson from these individuals—to always be happy, offer hugs, and take life one day at a time.
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