Thursday 8 December 2016

Meet Emma Morano - the world's last living link to the 19th century - who turns 117 today

Published 29/11/2016 | 08:04

Emma Morano poses next to a picture depicting her where she was young, in Verbania, Italy, Friday, May 13, 2016. (Antonino Di Marco/ANSA via AP)
Emma Morano poses next to a picture depicting her where she was young, in Verbania, Italy, Friday, May 13, 2016. (Antonino Di Marco/ANSA via AP)

The oldest living person in the world, and the only one left who has touched three centuries, is a raw-egg-eating, brandy-drinking Italian woman who credits her long life to her daily eggs, her early bedtime and being single.

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Ms Morano was born on November 29th 1899, celebrating her 117th birthday today.

Ms Morano lives in a neat one-room apartment, which she no longer leaves, and is kept company by a caregiver and two elderly nieces.

"I am doing fine -116!" she told well-wishers from her bed.

"I finished school and I went to work. I used to sing. I had a beautiful voice," she added, summing up her life.

Her diet now includes two raw eggs and 100g of raw steak a day, which Dr Bava prescribed after she had a bout of anaemia some years back. Her nieces also make her apple sauce.

Italy is known for its centenarians - many of whom live on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia - and gerontologists at the University of Milan are studying Ms Morano, along with a handful of Italians over 105, to try to figure out why they live so long.

Dr Bava, who visits her every Friday, is convinced there is a genetic component to Ms Morano's longevity in addition to her positive attitude. One of her sisters lived to be over 100 and another to nearly 100.

She has been in stable health for years, Dr Bava said, with no chronic ailments.

"Her longevity is a genetic fact, nothing else," Dr Bava said. "She is a person who from a young age had a difficult life that would have sapped the energy out of anyone."

He said Ms Morano's husband beat her and she lost an infant son to cot death at six months. She supported herself working in a factory making jute bags, then in a hotel, working well past retirement age.

"She abandoned the husband in the Fascist era, when women were supposed to be submissive. She was always very decisive," her doctor said.

Dr Bava, who has known Ms Morano since she was 90, also praised her emotional stability.

"She is always a very serene. The beauty of Emma is that it is normal that she smiles, but also in difficulties, she is very decisive," he said. "But perhaps this tranquillity comes with age, which becomes wisdom. Who knows?"

"I sang in my house, and people on the road stopped to hear me singing. And then they had to run, because they were late and should go to work," Ms Morano recalled in an interview last summer, before breaking into a round of the 1930s Italian love song Parlami d'amore Mariu.

"Ahh, I don't have my voice any more," she lamented.

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