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SHELBYVILLE, Ind. -

Maybe it was a lifetime of chores on the family farm that accounts for Edna Parker's long life. Or maybe just good genes explain why the world's oldest known person will turn 115 on Sunday, defying staggering odds.

Scientists who study longevity hope Parker and others who live to 110 or beyond — they're called supercentenarians — can help solve the mystery of extreme longevity.

"We don't know why she's lived so long," said Don Parker, her 59-year-old grandson. "But she's never been a worrier and she's always been a thin person, so maybe that has something to do with it."

Her room at the Heritage House Convalescent Center in Shelbyville, Ind., about 25 miles southeast of Indianapolis, is adorned with teddy bears and photos of her five grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great grandchildren. She's outlived her two sons, Clifford and Earl Jr.

Perls said the secret to a long life is now believed to be a mix of genetics and environmental factors such as health habits. He said his research on about 1,500 centenarians hints at another factor that may protect people from illnesses such as heart attacks and stroke — they appear not to dwell on stressful events.

"They seem to manage their stress better than the rest of us," he said.