“Coming down with a parachute over you, it’s such a peaceful thing,” Dorothy Hoffner told AARP on Oct. 2, one day after she jumped out of a plane near her home in Chicago and parachuted to the ground.
The extreme sport attracts millions of adventure-seekers each year, but Hoffner’s tandem jump made international headlines. At the age of 104.5, she became the world’s oldest skydiver — a title that previously belonged to (and officially still does until paperwork is filed and finalized) a 103-year-old woman from Sweden.
One week after what was likely a record-setting skydive, Hoffner passed away in her sleep where she lived at Brookdale Lake View senior living facility. She would have turned 105 in December.
Hoffner’s Oct. 1 jump from Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois, was not her first. The Chicago native first went skydiving at the age of 100 with a friend she calls her “pseudo grandson.”
“We enjoyed it and we wanted to do it again shortly after,” Hoffner said. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit — the second pandemic of Hoffner’s life — and she had to wait. Four years later, she still felt up for it. “You know, age is only a number,” she said.
Attached to a certified U.S. Parachute Association tandem instructor, Hoffner landed her Oct. 1 jump to claps and cheers from a small crowd of media and other supporters. “That was wonderful,” she told her fellow jumpers while getting unhooked from her gear on the ground.
The skydiving centenarian spent the next few days taking questions from reporters — one even called from London, she said. “It’s not for the jump that they’re making a fuss about this,” she said. “It’s for the age. Now what does age have to do with anything?”
Hoffner credits God for her long and healthy life — no habits or hacks to swear by. “I eat everything that’s put before me,” she said when we talked on Oct. 2. “Physically, I’m in good shape, and I can’t complain because everything has worked out so well for me all my life.”
Skydive Chicago and the U.S. Parachute Association, who helped to arrange Hoffner’s Oct. 1 jump, issued a statement saying the group felt “honored to have been a part of making her world-record skydive a reality.” The statement continued: “Skydiving is an activity that many of us safely tuck away in our bucket lists. But Dorothy reminds us that it’s never too late to take the thrill of a lifetime.”