Officials at the Gerontology Research Group say there are currently between 70 and 80 people in the U.S. who are 110 years old or older. A Merrill woman joins them.
Thea Theissen turns 110 Thursday.
Her family threw a birthday party Wednesday, an occasion they plan on each year after Christmas.
"It's really cool," said great-granddaughter Olivia Wheat. "Each year we're surprised that we're celebrating another birthday."
"It's really surreal," said Annie Schnabel, another great-granddaughter. "I tell a lot of people about it and they almost don't even believe it."
"She's still very active," said great-granddaughter Tessa Wheat. "And it's just very meaningful that she's still alive."
"Everyone that we meet just thinks it's amazing too, but it's hard sometimes," said Audrey Anderson, Thea's youngest daughter . "And to be 110 and to have no family left and no friends, it's hard for her I know."
After singing "Happy Birthday" and blowing out candles, the family asked the birthday girl questions, laughed together and ate cake. Grandma Thea had two pieces.
Born in 1907, Thea has lived through both world wars and the Great Depression.
"Well I'll tell you what; Because of the Depression she's a real saver," said Audrey. "And they came through, she and my dad, very well because they knew how to improvise."
"But I'm sure she has seen a lot in her lifetime that we'll never even know about," said great-granddaughter Annie.
Asked how she keeps going, the birthday girl had some funny responses.
"Well, I think that at 110, I guess I can go out and play yet," said Thea Theissen. "You guys gotta exercise."
"She does that on a regular basis," said Tessa. "She is always willing to make people laugh."
"I heard on the news not long ago that they said stubborn people live long lives," said Audrey. "And she's gonna be here forever."