Brazil: 100-year-old grandma realises parachute dream

It is never too late to make a dream come true, even if it means that you have to make your his first parachute jump at the age of one hundred. On December 19th, Aida Gemaque Mendes, better known as Vó Iaiá (Granny Iaiá), successfully jumped 8,000 feet through the skies of the city where she has lived since 1959, Macapá, capital of the Brazilian state of Amapá.

Photo br Alcinéa Cavalcante, published with permission

“I want to stroll in the sky, to feel a little closer to God”. Photo by Alcinéa Cavalcante, published with permission

During the four hour wait to jump, Vó Iaiá told jokes, remembered stories of her life and comforted her many relatives and friends who were there to support her, guaranteeing them that she was very happy and not afraid at all. Among the onlookers was the blogger Alcinéa Cavalcante [pt], who documented the preparation and the after jump in photos, and later interviewed the hero granny:

Aos 100 anos, completados em novembro passado, ela dança, caminha, joga vôlei, basquete e futebol. “O que eu gosto mais é de dançar. Ihhhhh adoooro dançar”, diz com os olhos brilhando e dando uns requebros.
Falta alguma coisa? Faltava. Faltava saltar de paraquedas. Peraltice que ela realizou ontem em Macapá. “Quero passear no céu, me sentir mais pertinho de Deus”, disse.


Quando desceu, Vó Iaiá era o retrato da maior felicidade do mundo. Ergueu os braços para o céu e agradeceu a Deus. Deu entrevista coletiva contando que “foi bom demais”, que “é muito legal”, que não sentiu nenhum tantinho de medo, só uma “coisa estranha no ouvido por causa do vento forte” e que quer saltar de novo.

At 100, in November, she dances, walks, plays volleyball, basketball and football. “What I like most is dancing. Ahhhhh I loooove dancing,” she says wiggling, her eyes shining.
Is there anything missing? Something was missing. She had never done a parachute jump. A feat she performed yesterday in Macapá. “I want to stroll in the sky, to feel a little closer to God,” she said.


On landing, Grandma Iaiá was the image of the greatest happiness of the world. She raised her arms to the sky and thanked God. She gave a press conference to say that “it was jolly good,” that “it is really cool”, that she did not feel not even a bit of fear, only a “strange thing in the ear because of the strong wind” and that she wants to jump again.

Getting ready to take over. Photo br Alcinéa Cavalcante, published with permission

Getting ready to take off. Photo by Alcinéa Cavalcante, published with permission

Emanuel Costa [pt] provides a snapshot of her centenary life and how this dream came true, a Christmas gift from her grandson Josivaldo dos Santos:

O sonho de Aida Mendes, também conhecida como “vovó Iaiá”, que nasceu em 20 de novembro de 1909 em uma fazenda no interior do município de Chaves (PA), sempre foi salta de paraquedas, mas tudo começou quando Josivaldo dos Santos, o Vavá, neto de “vovó Iaiá”, que também é paraquedista, perguntou se ela teria coragem de saltar de paraquedas.

Depois de aceitar o desafio “vovó Iaiá” passou por uma série de exames médicos antes de realizar o salto. E na presença de vários amigos e familiares, além de vários jornalistas a dona Aida Gemaque Mendes realizou a proeza. A queda livre durou 13 segundos e a navegação foi de 15 minutos.

Agora “vovó Iaiá” pode entrar para o Guinness Book (o livro dos recordes) como a mulher mais velha do mundo a saltar de paraquedas. O feito vai se avaliado para entrar nos registros do Guinness Book. Título de mulher mais velha do mundo a salta de paraquedas pertence à dona Encarnação Olivas, quando aos 82 anos fez um salto histórico no aeroporto de Marília (SP), em 1992.

The dream of Aida Mendes, also known as “Grandma Iaiá”, who was born on November 20, 1909 on a farm in the city of Chaves (state of Pará), has always been parachute jumping, but it all started when her grandson Josivaldo dos Santos, aka Vavá, who is also a skydiver, asked if she really had the courage to do it.

After accepting the challenge, “Grandma Iaiá” went through a series of medical tests before jumping. And in front of many friends and relatives, and several journalists, Ms Aida Gemaque Mendes performed the feat. The free fall lasted 13 seconds and navigation was 15 minutes.

Now “Grandma Iaiá” may make it into the Guinness Book (of records) as the oldest woman in the world to go parachute jumping. Her achievement will be considered for entrance into the Guinness Book of Records. The holder of the title of oldest woman in the world to go parachute jumping is Encarnação Olivas, aged 82 when she made a historical jump at the airport of Marília (São Paulo) in 1992.

That record was, however, broken two years later. Gavin [pt], a reader at the Notícias Daqui blog, laments in the blog's comment box the fact that Vó Iaiá did not make it into the Guinness World Records as the oldest tandem parachute jump (female) after all. Not yet:

Por muito pouco, a Dona Iaiá não entrou no Guiness Book. O record para salto de paraquedas feminino “tandem” (junto com instrutor) é de Estrid Geertsen da Dinamarca com 100 anos e 60 dias, no dia 30 de setembro de 2004. Sendo que Dona Iaiá fez 100 anos no dia 20 de outubro, ela deixou de quebrar o recorde por poucos dias. Mas ainda assim, um feito impressionante e inspirador. Parabéns para ela!

By very little, Ms Iaiá did not enter the Guinness Book. The record holder for a women's tandem parachute jump (with an instructor) is Estrid Geertsen, from Denmark, at the age of 100 years and 60 days, on 30th September 2004. Since Ms Iaiá was 100 years old on October 20th [translator's note: her birthday was actually in November], she missed breaking the record by a few days. But she still performed an impressive and inspiring feat. Congratulations to her!
Hugging Vavá, the grandson who organized the jump. Photo by Alcinéa Cavalcante, published with permission.

Iaiá hugs Vavá, the grandson who organised the feat, after the jump. Photo by Alcinéa Cavalcante, published with permission.

Vó Iaiá's jump has given ideas to many bloggers who were not sure what to give their grandmothers for Christmas, such as Emerson Batista [pt], who blogged half-jokingly:

Estava pensando que presente deveria comprar para minha avó neste natal. Agora estou na dúvida entre os saltos de paraquedas ou de bang-jump. Vou pensar um pouco mais… Após o salto a vovó Iaiá agradeceu: “Obrigada meu Deus. É bom demais.” Imagino que o agradecimento não seja apenas pelo salto realizado. Vovó Iaiá tem muito a agradecer…

I was thinking about what I should buy for my grandmother this Christmas. Now I'm torn between a parachute or bungee jump. I'll think it over a little more … After the jump, Grandma Iaiá said: “Thank God. It's jolly good.” I imagine her gratitude is not only at jumping. Grandma Iaiá has a lot to be thankful for …

Iaiá now plans to fulfill other dreams, such as learning how to ride a bicycle and maybe even riding a motorbike. Not only is she, incredibly for her age, strong and healthy enough for this – she does not even need to wear glasses – she is full of life and energy. Asked, during a phone interview before the jump, what she attributes her longevity and courage to, she told Altino Machado [pt]:

Trabalho. Trabalhei muito na minha mocidade. Agora, na velhice, estou jovem para tudo.

Work. I worked very hard in my youth. Now, at an old age, I am young for everything.
Photo by Alcinéa Cavalcante, published with permission

Still young at 100. Photo by Alcinéa Cavalcante, published with permission


  • M.V.Sankaran

    I am reminded of Guy Brown’s “The Living End:The Future of Death, Aging and Immortality”[Macmillan, 2008]wherein the said research scientist working at the University of Cambridge on the ‘molecular mechanisms of cell death and degenerative diseases’, has suggested a few things to do before we die, one of which is to “live life to the full– spread your memes and genes”! He adds: “Immortality as a unified self is not currently achievable, and there are other ways of reaching immortality that are achievable now”. Here is one!

  • […] with whom I’m fallen totally, head over heels in love. GV is full of people who routinely challenge my perceptions of the world, remind me that the rest of the world is both indescribably different and infinitely more the same […]

  • I have just had some news about Iaiá, from Alcinéia. She did another jump at the end of last year, and is still full of life and joy. Now at the age 102 :)

    What an inspiration!


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.