Emma Morano is believed to be the only person in the world still alive that was born in the 19th century
Emma Morano, recognised as the older person in the world and the last remaining person born in the 19th century, turned 117 yesterday, asking Italian photographers “does my hair look okay?” before allowing them to snap a shot of her as she blew out the candles on her cake.
Although plagued by poor vision and hard of hearing, and having rarely left her second-storey apartment in Verbania, northern Italy, in two decades, her doctor says she is alert, aware of her surroundings, and living as good a quality of life as can be expected.
Carlo Bava, her physician, said she knew she was having a moment in the limelight, with the news of her having reached the milestone age widely reported by local and international media.
“She is very lucid, very present,” Bava said. “She was very happy and honour to get a telegram of congratulations this morning from President Mattarella.
“There was a television crew there and she got flowers. She had dressed up and she was very proud. She posed for a photographer and even asked if her hair looked good. So I think you can say is in good form.”
Morano’s longevity comes despite leading a tough life. She lost the love of her life, her fiancée, in World War I, marrying a violent man. When their infant son, her only child, died, she made the decision to leave her husband, despite the moral objections of the Italian church. Morano supported herself for the rest of her life working in a factory where she made burlap sacks.
She also credits her long life to a diet that seems to counter all nutritional advice.
“I eat two eggs a day, and that’s it. And cookies,” she told the AFP last month. “But I do not each much because I have no teeth,” Morano says she gave up on vegetables decades ago and her fruit consumption is limited to occasional handfuls of grapes and apple sauce.
Her doctor credits genetics rather than her food consumption for reaching 117. “All of her family lived a very long time,” Bava said. “The diet she has had would have destroyed the liver of most people. But with Emma, I think she could even have eaten pebbles and she would still have lived a very long time.
“What might be more important is that she has always had a very strong character. It has always been her who decides what she does or doesn’t do.”