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Human Interest

Woman Believed to Be Last Person Born in 19th Century Turns 117: What’s Her Secret?

Updated

 

Emma Morano has seen some things.

The 117-year-old Italian woman, who’s believed to be the last living person born in the 19th century, celebrated her birthday Tuesday. Certified by Guinness World Records as the the world’s oldest living person, Morano was born on November 29, 1899.

Antonio Calanni/AP

Morano married in 1926, though the union struggled when the couple’s child passed away at just 6 months old. In 1938, she left her husband, and has remained single ever since, living on the shores of Lake Maggiore in Italy. The marriage was an unhappy and reportedly abusive one, and consequently, Morano told the New York Times that, “I didn’t want to be dominated by anyone” again.

Her independent streak extends to her diet: Morano told AFP in October that she eats “two eggs a a day, and that’s it. And cookies.” It’s a diet she picked up in 1919 after being diagnosed with anemia and has held onto for 90 years.

“Emma has always eaten very few vegetables, very little fruit. When I met her, she ate three eggs per day, two raw in the morning and then an omelette at noon, and chicken at dinner,” physician Carlo Bava, who has been her doctor for the past 27 years, told AFP.

Morano lives in the same apartment she got after divorcing her husband. Though she’s confined to her bed, and her sight and hearing have deteriorated too much to allow her much activity, she still enjoys her watch collection and has her framed Guinness Record on a marble-topped chest of drawers in her bedroom.

Bava credits Morano’s longevity partially to good genes — her mother died at 91 and at least two of her sisters passed 100 — and her strong will. “She is a very determined person. She has never wanted to go to hospital, she’s never received any particular (health) care. She’s suffered from a bit of bronchitis, had a (blood) transfusion, and some stitches, but always at home.”

Morano is just five years younger than the oldest person on record, Jeanne Calment of France, who lived to be 122 years and 164 days.